ST. PETERSBURG -- Nathan Eovaldi carried the torch on Tuesday afternoon.
Not even 24 hours after Blake Snell held the Nationals hitless for six innings, Eovaldi held Washington hitless for 5 2/3 innings to lead the Rays to a 1-0 win at Tropicana Field.
Bryce Harper finally ended the no-no suspense when he doubled with two outs in the sixth to break up the bid. Eovaldi finished with six scoreless innings before handing off to Diego Castillo to start the seventh.
"I felt really good today," Eovaldi said. "I had my splitter going today I felt like for the first time since being back [from the disabled list]. My fastball command was there. My cutter was really good today. We had some good plays in the infield being made and we were able to score."
Eovaldi allowed just the one hit and two walks while striking out nine, throwing 100 pitches, of which 64 were strikes.
"He's got good stuff," said Nats outfielder Michael A. Taylor of Eovaldi. "He's got a good cutter. He's got a good fastball. He works quick. You just have to get him in the zone and it is a different game."
On May 30, Eovaldi made his first start of the season and held the A's scoreless on no hits through six innings before getting lifted. When asked to compare the two outings, he noted that he was able to have fastball command in both.
"I was able to get first-pitch strikes and keep attacking the zone," Eovaldi said. "The split felt really good for me today. Being able to get first-pitch strikes and then being able to throw that below the zone was really effective for me."
• Benches clear after last out of game
Kevin Kiermaier singled off Max Scherzer in the first and later scored on a Jake Bauers groundout to give the Rays a 1-0 lead. That was all they would get off Scherzer, but one run was all they needed. An eventful ninth ended with Sergio Romo coming on with one out and the bases loaded to record the final two outs and earn his sixth save. Both benches then cleared after Romo exchanged words with Taylor, whom he had fanned for the final out.
The final frame began with manager Kevin Cash moving players all over the field -- including having Jose Alvarado, a left-handed pitcher, move to first base for a batter, then return to face another batter. Although Alvarado allowed three baserunners sandwiched around his stint at first, the strategy nonetheless proved successful, as Chaz Roe retired the only batter he faced and Romo clamped down to end the game.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Getting to Scherzer early: Hitting second in the order, Matt Duffy stepped to the plate in the first to face Scherzer with Kiermaier on first. Duffy then battled the Nationals' ace until he singled on his 10th offering, allowing Kiermaier to reach third. Kiermaier then scored on Bauers' groundout for the game's only run.
The Rays improved to 5-0 on their nine-game homestand against the Yankees, Nationals and Astros (four games starting Thursday). They are 7-2 in their past nine games, all against teams currently .500 or better -- they were 8-28 against teams .500 or better before this stretch.
Bauers' first-inning RBI accounted for the only run of the game. At 22 years, 263 days, he became the youngest player in franchise history to drive in the only run of a 1-0 win.
HE SAID IT
"We are playing a really good team in Washington. A 1-0 win and finding a way to be the game's best. That pulls a lot of passion and emotion out of it. This group has been pretty special the way they carry themselves all year long. They will continue to do that. It took all of our defense and some great pitching to win this series." -- Cash, on the confrontation at the end of the game
Ryne Stanek will start for the Rays on Thursday night when they welcome the defending World Series champion Astros to Tropicana Field for a 7:10 p.m. ET contest. The hard-throwing right-hander has not allowed a run in his past 10 appearances (five starts) since the beginning of June, and opponents are batting .095 (4-for-42) against him over that stretch. Fourteen of his past 15 performances have been scoreless.