HOUSTON – Nathan Eovaldi doesn’t spend time on social media and he doesn’t have an Instagram account. Nonetheless, the Red Sox righthander wasn’t oblivious to the arrow fired in his direction by Astros third baseman Alex Bregman in advance of Eovaldi’s Game 3 start in the American League Championship Series.
Bregman’s posted a brief video to his Instagram story on Tuesday that was introduced with the title, “lil pregame video work.” The video featured Astros George Springer, Bregman, and Jose Altuve hitting back-to-back-to-back homers in a June 20 start in Houston in which Eovaldi, then with the Rays, gave up five runs and four homers over six innings in a 5-1 loss to the Astros.
Though Bregman deleted it soon after posting it, the video was captured by a few outlets and circulated quickly, coming to the attention of members of the Red Sox. Those players, in turn, alerted Eovaldi to it.
“The guys have told me about it,” said Eovaldi. “I’m aware of it.”
Eovaldi – who grew up in Alvin, Texas, about 30 miles from where he’ll take the mound at Minute Maid Park on Tuesday – shrugged off the significance of the post, suggesting that it wouldn’t affect his preparation. He also described himself as a “completely different” pitcher now from the one who got hit hard in his start against the Astros in June.
He’s changed his position on the mound to attack different parts of the strike zone and in the process, he’s gone from vulnerable to homers (1.4 homers per nine innings through August) to extreme in avoiding them (he’s allowed none in 27 innings since the start of September). Eovaldi is confident his alterations will allow him to continue that success in Game 3.
“I’m going to try to keep the same approach as I’ve been attacking hitters now and moving forward,” said Eovaldi.
Yet while Eovaldi could view his adjustments as a reason to look past Bregman’s dig, it’s possible the rest of the Red Sox won’t be so quick to dismiss it. In the American League Division Series, the Red Sox didn’t mind using off-the-field taunts by their opponent – in that instance, Aaron Judge playing “New York, New York” on a portable speaker while walking through the concourse of Fenway Park after a Yankees win – to sharpen a competitive edge.
Might the Red Sox find similar fuel for their motivational engine in Bregman’s post? Manager Alex Cora spoke coyly on the topic.
“We don’t know about that. We didn’t know about Judge, and we didn’t know about what Alex did,” Cora said of a player with whom he became – and remains – extremely close from their 2017 season together in Houston, when Cora was the Astros bench coach. “If you need motivation in Game 3 of the ALCS, you better check yourself, because you win three more games you go to the [World Series]. And that’s what should motivate you. Alex has different ways of motivating himself. And . . . whatever. I’ll leave it at that.”
In a way, the post served as a reminder of baseball’s social media era, and the modern form that bulletin-board material gets assembled.
“Welcome to the current generation,” said Astros manager A.J. Hinch. “We have a sport full of great personalities and there’s a fine line. Is it disrespectful? No. We want guys to have their personalities, have their fun, then go out and back it up. If you’re going to put yourself out there you’ve got to back it up a little bit. But this is all in fun banter and competition.”
The Sox tended to agree. Ultimately, the episode will have little bearing on what happens in the series. But the Red Sox wouldn’t mind having an opportunity to revisit it after the ALCS.
“I thought [the post] was good fun . . . I don’t think it will affect the way Nate goes out and pitches,” said Brock Holt. “We saw [the Judge video in the Yankees series] and we knew that if we did what we wanted to do and won the series, we were gonna blast the tune so he could hear it again. It’s just having fun back and forth. I don’t think [Judge] meant anything by it. Same thing with us. We won the series, felt pretty good, and wanted to give a little shot back. We’ll have to think of something where, if this series goes the way we want it, we’ll give Bregman a little shot back.”