Nathan Eovaldi had just about everything going Saturday night, and the end result was his finest work of 2021.
In another display of dominance from the Sox’s hard-throwing starter, Eovaldi pitched 7 2/3 innings of one-run ball in Boston’s 4-2 win over the New York Yankees on Saturday night. The one run he allowed was on the final batter he faced in the game, as D.J. LeMahieu snuck a ball over the fence in right field in the eighth.
All told, Eovaldi allowed seven hits with no walks and six strikeouts.
“I would say so,” Eovaldi responded over Zoom when asked if that was his best start of the campaign. “Up there with that Tampa game I had really early on in the year. Tonight I felt like everything was working for me. The fastball command was there, I was able to throw it inside. We were able to establish that early in the game, and I think that opened it up for us later in the game, as well. It helped the slider out a lot, kept them off balance and then the curveball played really well, too.”
Eovaldi has been a steady pitcher for the Red Sox pretty much all season, so it’s no small feat that Saturday was his best. And while the Tampa outing was a dandy itself, the situation — packed house, Red Sox-Yankees, etc. — had to have made it a little bit sweeter.
Here are some other notes from Saturday’s Red Sox-Yankees game:
— Matt Barnes was unavailable and Hirokazu Sawamura struggled to throw strikes.
That resulted in a heavy workload for Adam Ottavino against his former team.
Ottavino had to dance out of a bases-loaded, two-out jam in the eighth inning created by Sawamura. Ottavino wound up allowing a run in the ninth, but escaped catastrophe by striking out Aaron Judge to end the game. One 1/3 innings of work, 33 pitches.
“It was hard, that was definitely the most tired I’ve been on the mound this year, but I’m glad it worked out,” Ottavino said.
— It was a milestone night for Connor Wong, who got to make his first MLB start. The catcher, acquired in the Mookie Betts trade, has appeared in one game since getting called up earlier in the week, but that was as a replacement player.
A Houston native like Eovaldi, the two worked out together last year, so manager Alex Cora thought it best to have Eovaldi be the man on the mound when Wong caught a full game.
“Wong did amazing,” Eovaldi said.
He also contributed at the plate, roping a single to right in his first Major League at-bat. Wong historically has had a slightly above-average bat for a catcher, but at the time of his call-up was hitting just .148 in Triple-A. That made the first hit a little extra special.
“It was nice. It felt like it was my first hit in a long time, I’ve been struggling in Worcester,” Wong said. “So, it was nice to get that one and just looking forward to building off that.”
— A lot has been made about Rafael Devers’ offensive abilities, but defense long has been an area in need of refining for the third baseman. He does have some elite skill at third, but too often it is marred by mistakes.
Saturday, he showed off the elite skill.
With two out in the second inning, Glebyer Torres hit a grounder to third that Devers charged in on, barehanded and quickly unloaded to beat the runner. In the past, that was a throw that had a good chance of sailing on the first baseman, but as Devers continues to round into one of the game’s better all-around third basemen, we’re likely going to see more plays like that.
He also showed off some great baserunning ability in the bottom half of the stanza, tagging up from third on a pop out from Bobby Dalbec that Luke Voit tracked down just beyond the infield dirt. It proved to be a 152-foot sacrifice fly.