A complete-game victory from Nate Eovaldi in Game 1 of Saturday’s doubleheader could not disguise the fact the Red Sox are still not completely back on a winning track.
Following a 5-3 win with a 4-2 loss meant the 22-25 Red Sox’ struggle to reach .500 is not within reach in this series against the not-so-lowly Orioles (20-28).
In Game 2, doubleheader call-up Josh Winckowski gave up four runs in three innings while the Red Sox bats stayed mostly silent.
Eovaldi’s gem was a completely different story.
“It definitely meant a lot to me, especially with how much we’ve been using the bullpen lately and how much they’ve been throwing,” said Eovaldi, who allowed three runs, two earned, on seven hits, one walk, and six strikeouts in career regular-season start No. 211. “To be able to come in today, especially with the doubleheader, and [manager Alex Cora] trusted me to go out there and finish the game, it means a lot to me.”
Before Saturday, Eovaldi had only appeared in the 9th inning one other time. It was seven years ago, and he was unable to record an out.
The bullpen was a study in still life at the start of the ninth, and though a leadoff single meant a couple of warm-up jackets were doffed, the movement was unnecessary. A strikeout and double-play ball on Eovaldi’s 108th pitch — just his seventh of the 9th — completed his new 9-inning feat, which came as news to Cora when pitching coach Dave Bush delivered it.
“I was like, ‘Great.’ Great timing too,” said Cora. “He’s made some adjustments and he works so hard on everything. It was good to see them celebrate him down there. Well deserved. That was outstanding.
“We played good defense behind him. Turned a few double plays. That was really good. We put up good at-bats, too.”
Bobby Dalbec’s pinch-hit home run to lead off the 6th broke a 3-3 deadlock and proved to be the game-winner. The Red Sox added an insurance run the next inning.
The Orioles scored first, in the first on Anthony Santander’s RBI single. The run was unearned, with third baseman Rafael Devers muffing a line drive hit right into his glove.
The Red Sox scored three times in the second, with Jackie Bradley Jr. doubling in the first run and Hernández singling in two more.
A game-tying, two-run home run by Robinson Chirinos in the 5th inning was the 16th allowed this year by Eovaldi, the most in the majors and one more homer than Eovaldi allowed last season in 182⅓ regular-season innings.
On the last road trip to Chicago, Eovaldi began waking up around 8:30 to begin replicating his game-day schedule Saturday. He flew home before Thursday’s game to avoid a pre-dawn arrival in Boston with the rest of the team.
“On start days I usually like to be at the field three hours before the start, so I want to make sure I’m up early,” said Eovaldi. “I’m a big breakfast guy, too, so I want to make sure I get my breakfast in. Breakfast and coffee. On start days, my stomach is a little upset anyway, with the nerves and everything.”
There were few nerves on display Saturday. Only nine well-timed innings.
“He knew that this was a big one for us, especially with where we were at bullpen-wise, so for him to go nine with the stuff he had, it wasn’t just like, ‘OK, we’re going to throw him out there and see what happens,’ ” said Cora. “The stuff was really good. He’s one of those guys, that, you follow suit down there, and I’m very happy for him.”
Orioles Game 2 starter Denyi Reyes pitched well, holding the Red Sox to only one run — via Christian Vázquez’ fourth-inning RBI single — in his 3⅔ innings. Boston staged rallies in the final two innings, but pinch hitter Xander Bogaerts grounded out after Vázquez (3 for 4) slugged a two-out double off the center field wall in the eighth.
In the ninth, the Sox put the first two on to bring up the tying run against Jorge Lopez, but scored only on a Christian Arroyo forceout when Kiké Hernández hit into a game-ending double play. The rally, like the Red Sox on most days this season, fell short.
Michael Silverman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.