Eovaldi set to start Game 6 vs. Astros
Made relief appearance on Tuesday
Nathan Eovaldi is set to start for the Red Sox in Friday’s Game 6 of the American League Championship Series, manager Alex Cora said, which was the plan even before the right-hander pitched in relief of Tuesday’s stunning Game 4 loss.
Eovaldi threw 24 pitches Tuesday in an outing that quickly turned disastrous on him. Asked to keep the game tied at 2 in the ninth after Garrett Whitlock allowed a game-tying homer in the eighth, Eovaldi gave up a leadoff double to Carlos Correa before bouncing back with a pair of strikeouts. But the game got out of hand after a missed third strike call by home plate umpire Laz Diaz that would have ended the inning. Two pitches later, Jason Castro hit a goahead RBI single.
Eovaldi walked Jose Altuve before Cora pulled him after 24 pitches to keep him fresh for Game 6. But the floodgates opened after that. The Astros ultimately scored seven in the ninth of their 9-2 victory that evened the series.
“He was a little bit off, too, with his mechanics, which is something that we noticed right away,” Cora said. “Obviously, you think about the present, but you think about Game 6, and then you have to be very careful with the way you treat him.
“At the end he made pitches. He did make pitches, and it just didn’t work out, but I think kind of like right there you don’t want too much traffic, either, so that’s kind of like where we’re at.”
Tuesday marked the first time this postseason that Eovaldi was used in relief. Cora said that he would rather have not used one of his high-end starters like Eovaldi to pitch in a tied or one-run game, but he liked the matchups and the opportunity for a shutdown inning from his best pitcher to give the Sox a chance to walk the game off in the ninth.
Cora also noted that Eovaldi’s health and physicality is unique to the staff, giving him even more confidence in the right-hander’s ability to shoulder a relief inning in between his starts.
“That guy is different,” Cora said. “He is just — athletic-wise he is different than all of them. So you feel actually — it’s funny because his history will tell you differently, right, because of all the injuries, but he just is at another level, and he is very honest about it. If he feels good, he feels good. It’s not the, “Oh, I’ll give you one inning today,” just to say it.”
No regrets on Perez
It was still just a one-run deficit when Eovaldi exited with two outs in the ninth, and Cora decided to turn to Martin Perez because he liked the matchup against lefty Michael Brantley. But Brantley jumped on Perez’s first pitch for a three-run double to make it a 6-2 game. The Astros poured it on afterward, giving the Sox little chance to come back.
Ryan Brasier and Hansel Robles were rested, but Cora still preferred Perez in that spot.
“We used Martin in that spot in Game 1 against Michael,” Cora explained. “We felt like stretching Nate didn’t make sense and Martin did a good job with him, he got a ground ball the other day, so that’s why he’s on this roster. He’s here to get lefties out. … It just felt like lefty on lefty and make pitches, and he got ambushed. That’s it. But we felt like that was right there, his matchup, we get out of it, we’re good. Then after that, a lot of stuff happened. …
“We felt like that was a good matchup for him.”
Schwarber OK after cramping up
The Red Sox avoided a bit of an injury scare on Tuesday night when Kyle Schwarber grabbed at his hamstring during his plate appearance in the fourth inning. After needing a few moments to loosen it up, he stayed in the game.
“He’s doing OK,” Cora said. “He said the timing wasn’t perfect. He cramps in the middle of that at-bat with a man at third. But he’s fine. He’s good.”