Eovaldi's toughness on display as Red Sox stay hot

June 9th, 2022

ANAHEIM -- Nathan Eovaldi, the ultimate flamethrower, didn’t bring the heat with him to Angel Stadium on Wednesday night.

Yet he pitched five scoreless innings anyway, and the Red Sox stifled the reeling Angels (14 straight losses) by a score of 1-0 for the second time in three nights.

Unlike the Angels, nearly everything is going right for a Boston team that has won seven in a row, 16 out of 21 and 20 out of 28.

If you thought it was concerning that Eovaldi’s fastball averaged 94 mph, well below his season average of 96.7 mph and the lowest of any start the righty has had since 2012, there was some good news following the game.

Though Cora and a member of the training staff went out to the mound to check on Eovaldi in the fifth inning, the dip in velocity was not arm related. Instead, it was a right hip injury that flared up. It isn’t believed to be serious.

“Yesterday, I woke up and it was a little tight, but I did some treatment and it felt better,” said Eovaldi. “I came in and played catch, went about my normal business and today, during the game, it just got a little tighter as the game went on. But we were able to make big pitches when we needed to and the defense was great tonight, and we were able to come out on top.”

The ultimate competitor, Eovaldi had no plans to come out when Cora came out to talk to him. In fact, he was hoping to pitch the sixth inning.

Given Eovaldi’s importance as the staff ace, Cora wisely didn’t take him up on his offer.

While Eovaldi only got one whiff on his fastball, he got seven on splitters, three on curveballs and three on sliders.

“He was battling the whole game,” said Cora. “He kept pushing to be out there so that’s why I went out and was like, ‘Hey man, this is bigger than one game, with what we’re trying to accomplish 162-plus. Are you OK?' He was like, ‘I’m fine, I’m good.’ He finished the inning and we took him out.”

Boston's bullpen, which struggled through the first several weeks of the season but has been much better of late, took it from there.

How rare is it to win 1-0 twice in one series? It is the first time the Red Sox accomplished the feat since July 18-19, 2006, when Jon Lester and Josh Beckett pitched gems at Fenway against the Royals and Cora was a Red Sox player.

There were a couple of other key moments that led to Wednesday’s nail-biting win.

Deja Verdugo -- first to home

When the Red Sox got their 1-0 victory on Monday, the lone run was scored by Alex Verdugo, who roared all the way home from first on a single by Christian Vázquez in the second inning on a great send by third-base coach Carlos Febles.

The only run in Wednesday’s win? Verdugo high-tailing from first to home on a two-out double down the line in right by Bobby Dalbec in the sixth.

Verdugo, who hasn’t been contributing as much as he’d like to offensively (.246/.290/.355), is finding other ways to help his team win.

“I think at this point it’s becoming a little bit of a joke in the clubhouse. I’m the first-to-home guy. I’ve got to do what I got to do. I’m a big speed guy,” quipped Verdugo.

Verdugo’s walk with two outs and nobody on to set up Dalbec was just as important.

“Yeah, that was my only good at-bat of the day,” said Verdugo. “Outside of that, I was just swinging too long, trying to do too much. Finally, that at-bat, I was like, 'Just see the ball, let’s be short and let’s fight this guy.' I saw him [Angels reliever Jimmy Herget] the night before. I had a big understanding of what his stuff does, so it was just finally buckle down and have a good at-bat. See some pitches, give myself a chance.”

Who’s on first? The catcher

On a day Kiké Hernandez went on the injured list and Rafael Devers had a rest, Cora came up with a lineup that had primary catcher Vázquez starting at first base for the first time since 2019.

When the Red Sox needed a big double play in the bottom of the seventh, lefty reliever Jake Diekman got a grounder off the bat of Max Stassi. Xander Bogaerts fielded it, flipped to Trevor Story, and then Vázquez dug out the throw to complete the 6-4-3.

Dalbec, who moved across the diamond to fill in for Devers, could only marvel at Vázquez’s handiwork, which likely won’t go on the list of artistic scoops of the season.

“He’s great over there. The bear-trap pick was good,” said Dalbec. “He’s got great hands.”