Before Friday’s game, Red Sox manager Alex Cora said he wanted starter Nathan Eovaldi to go deep into his outing in the series opener against the Blue Jays.
Well, things didn’t go according to plan.
After it initially appeared Boston managed to overcome the pitching and offensive struggles that had plagued it in its recent 1-6 stretch, Toronto erupted for seven runs on six hits off of Eovaldi in the fifth inning to take a 7-2 lead. By the time Hansel Robles took the hill in relief, Toronto launched three hits and grabbed two more runs.
“It just happened so fast,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said after the game. “We were two outs, a strike away from getting out of the inning and going to the next level bullpen-wise, but we were unable to finish it. He made some good pitches in that inning but we hung a few breaking balls, and it just happened so fast.”
Entering Friday, Eovaldi had the best ERA (3.71) among Red Sox starters (with the exception of Tanner Houck, who was optioned to Triple-A Worcester but is set to return to the rotation Saturday.) Boston’s ace exited with seven runs on eight hits with two walks and four strikeouts over 4 2/3 innings. The seven earned runs are a season-high.
“Giving up seven runs right there is unacceptable,” Eovaldi said after the game. “I can’t allow that to happen. It’s just extremely frustrating on my end. I feel like I let the team down.”
After Thursday’s weak showing from Martín Pérez against the Detroit Tigers, we pondered potential changes Boston could make to the rotation. The Red Sox took a step Friday when Cora shared Pérez was demoted to the bullpen.
But when Eovaldi struggles for a second consecutive start, it seems like more changes are necessary.
“I think that’s the most frustrating part, is they’ve given me the lead and I feel like I’ve let the team down so to speak,” Eovaldi said. “I’ve got to do a better job of managing the game, especially tonight. I felt like I was in control and the bottom part of the lineup got to me … It just felt like I couldn’t stop the bleeding.”
On the bright side, Chris Sale is expected to make his last rehab start for Triple-A Worcester on Saturday.
Here are other notes from Friday’s Red Sox-Blue Jays game:
— Pérez didn’t wait to make his bullpen debut. He came in for the seventh inning and gave up two hits and one run, striking out one.
— Also making his bullpen debut was … infielder Jonathan Araúz. He was recalled from Triple-A Worcester three days after he was optioned to make room for Matt Barnes. Araúz finished his pitching debut with one run on two hits through his inning, topping out at 43.7 mph.
— The Red Sox offense didn’t do the club many favors either. They went 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position and left a combined nine men on base.
— J.D. Martinez continues to struggle. He went 1-for-4 and popped out with the bases loaded in the fifth. Martinez entered the day hitting .216 in 19 games since the All-Star break, which is striking considering he was hitting .299 before the break and largely maintained an above-300 average through the month of June.
— The series will continue Saturday with a doubleheader in order to fit in the game that was postponed for weather July 20. Game 1 is at 3:07 p.m. ET and Game 2 will start at 7:07 p.m.
Nick Pivetta (8-5, 4.57 ERA) will get the ball against Robbie Ray (9-5, 3.04 ERA) in the first game. Houck (0-2, 2.45 ERA) will return to the Red Sox for the nightcap, while Jose Berrios (8-5, 3.31 ERA) takes the hill for the host Blue Jays.