LOS ANGELES — It will go down as one of the greatest relief outings in World Series history. I don’t care that he gave up the game-winning home run to Max Muncy in the 18th inning.
What Nathan Eovaldi did as Friday turned into Saturday in this wonderful ballpark, as the warmth of the Southern California turned cool enough to warrant a sweater, Eovaldi may have given up his Game 4 start, but in actuality he made the equivalent of another start within his relief outing. He went six innings, allowed two runs, one earned and struck out five. He allowed only three hits in the Red Sox’ 3-2 loss, which lasted 18 innings and 7 hours, 20 minutes.
When he walked off the field you could feel for Eovaldi, who left everything he had on the field.
Starting pitcher Rick Porcello said he cried for him.
“I actually, after the game was over, I started crying because that was — I mean, he’s grinding. Every pitch. He literally gave everything he had on every single pitch and it was special. It was a lot of fun to watch. That’s the epitome of reaching down deep and I don’t know. I’m really proud of him. I’m proud of the way our guys battled tonight. We came up one run short. So be it. We’ll be back tomorrow,” Porcello said.
If not for a horrible error by Ian Kinsler on a ground ball that should have ended the game in the 13th, Eovaldi should have won this game.
“I fell behind 3-0 and I wasn’t able to execute,” Eovaldi said. “When you go that far you want to go out on top. It’s frustrating.”
Every inning, manager Alex Cora and pitching coach Dana LeVangie would ask if he was OK to go another inning. And every inning Eovaldi said he was. Even in the 18th, Cora asked him and Eovaldi said he wanted to finish it off. Cora later said that the 18th was his final inning. Pomeranz was coming in.
Eovaldi said of the Kinsler error, “Kinsley makes that play 100 times over. He apologized to me and I said to him that he had nothing to apologize for. We’re a team.”
Eovaldi said his arm felt really good throughout the outing.
“It’s one inning at a time, and I kept going back out there until we won,” Eovaldi said. “I feel we played a great game. Everybody was making good plays. Nobody was hanging their heads. Everybody was positive. We’re ahead 2-1 and go get them tomorrow.”
“Everybody had my back,” he said. “That means a lot.”
Eovaldi said because he didn’t start the season until May 30, he had only amassed 120 or so innings and had felt strong throughout the postseason. Realistically, Eovaldi might not be able to pitch until Game 7, but he didn’t rule out getting back out there in a couple of days.
The Sox really had no choice but to stay with Eovaldi, who had pitched an inning in relief in Game 2.
The Sox were down to Pomeranz and Game 1 starter Chris Sale, and one or both may have to pitch Game 4, although Cora said the Game 4 starter is TBA.
To be able to do what Eovaldi has done is pretty significant for a guy who has had two Tommy John surgeries and just returned in May from his second one, when he was with the Tampa Bay Rays. The hope is that after this Game 3 performance, he won’t need a third.
With the score tied at 1, he came in to pitch a scoreless 12th. He came back for the 13th with the Sox leading, 2-1. He walked Max Muncy and got Manny Machado and Cody Bellinger to fly out. But Yasiel Puig reached on a ground ball to Kinsler, and on the second baseman’s throwing error, Muncy scored to tie the game.
In the 14th, Eovaldi gave up a single to Enrique Hernandez but the Dodgers could not bring him home.
Eovaldi doesn’t mind the bullpen gig, but he’d rather be a starter.
“I value that in myself that I’ll be able to come in in any situation, especially in the playoffs, if the team asks me to take the ball, that I need to be ready to do so. And I feel like the preparation, again, is part of it, too. It’s definitely helped me prepare and get ready for the Dodgers. I mean, it’s part of the game. You’ve got to know who you’re facing. And you go in there and execute your pitches and try not to put too much pressure on yourself.”
The hard-throwing righthander, who reached 101 miles per hour on the radar, is heading into free agency with that goal in mind. He’d love to stay in Boston and the Red Sox are sure to make him an offer to stay, but he’ll likely have his choice of teams and earn a hefty contract.
Eovaldi said the back and forth from starter to reliever hasn’t taken its toll. One supposes if he had to do it for the next few weeks that it would. But once the World Series comes, you feel no pain.
“I think right now the fact that I am built up as a starter, go 100 pitches, then I feel OK going back-to-back days and step out of the bullpen. I’m sure it could take a toll, but right now I feel really good,” Eovaldi said. “I was prepared for it. You’re built up for 100 pitches, so if you could break it down to 10, 20 pitches, I feel like it’s OK. You don’t really take that much of a toll.”
Eovaldi was grateful to the Rays, who signed him in 2017 and allowed him to recover from his surgery.
“The Rays did a tremendous job of taking care of me and not rushing me in any way, and allowing me to get to the point where I am now,” he said.
“They were able to make the big trade and send me over here for [Jalen] Beeks, and the things he did with the team this year, he was able to come in and help them win some big games, and they finished the year with 90 wins.”
Cora said he called former Sox teammate Kyle Snyder, the Rays pitching coach, before the trade was made and Snyder spoke about Eovaldi’s outstanding stuff and hard work.
Eovaldi is equal to J.D. Martinez in terms of work ethic. It’s all shown up since he joined the Red Sox.
There’s no denying now that Eovaldi has been Boston’s best pitcher in the postseason.
“I never thought that I wouldn’t be here,” Eovaldi said. “I was going to trust [the doctors] and trust my abilities and do what they told me, and be honest with them about being healthy and take it from there.”
He’s taken it from there and beyond. Friday night and Saturday morning was amazing. Absolutely amazing.