Nathan Eovaldi capped his 2021 season on a high note Wednesday, engineering a scoreless six-inning start for the Boston Red Sox, who defeated the Baltimore Orioles 6-0 at Camden Yards.
It was a much-needed win for both the team — which now holds a one-game lead over the Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners for the American League’s second Wild Card spot — and for Eovaldi himself, as the starter was coming off a tough outing against the New York Yankees less than a week ago.
But after Wednesday’s game, anything that happens regarding Boston’s postseason push largely is out of Eovaldi’s control. After 32 starts — one shy of his career high set in 2014 with the Miami Marlins — Eovaldi has had his final turn in the 2021 Red Sox regular season rotation.
The 31-year-old closed the regular season at 11-9, amassing a 3.75 ERA through 182 1/3 innings.
“I’m definitely satisfied,” Eovaldi said via Zoom after Wednesday’s win. “The biggest thing for me is being able to stay healthy and I’ve been able to accomplish that this year and go out there, give the team a chance to win in all my starts. That’s the one thing I try to do, try to take a lot of pride in going deep into the games and mainly being able to make every start.”
After his 2020 was spent anchoring a rotation that was reeling from the loss of both Chris Sale, who was recovering from Tommy John surgery, and Eduardo Rodriguez, who missed that season due to myocarditis he developed from COVID-19, Eovaldi again was charged with leading the Red Sox starters in 2021.
It was a role he flourished in, a constant in a rotation that saw a total of 10 different starters step up — including three major league debuts — amid Boston’s COVID-19 outbreak.
And of course it was. Red Sox manager Alex Cora revealed after Wednesday’s game that Eovaldi has become the player the team depends on in the biggest moments.
“It doesn’t seem like the moment gets too big on him,” Cora said. “Last week was last week. Like I said, the good ones, they struggle sometimes. Hopefully that was his last bad one. Whenever he pitches, he’ll be ready to go and we expect him to dominate.”
Whether his next outing comes in Game 163 — a tiebreaker game that has more than a zero percent chance of happening — in the Wild Card game, or even beyond, Eovaldi is ready to step up wherever the Red Sox need him.
“It’s extremely exciting,” he said. “I love trying to be the stopper. The team needs me in a big moment, I want to be the guy to provide them and try to help the team out as much as I can.”