“See how I feel,” he said of the possibility of returning sooner rather than later in the series.
The Red Sox acquired Eovaldi in a midseason trade with the Tampa Bay Rays. In 12 regular-season appearances for Boston, including 11 starts, he was 3-3 with a 3.33 earned run average. His versatility and stamina, though, have been invaluable in the postseason. He has made two starts and four relief appearances, scattering 15 hits over 22⅓ innings while posting a 1.61 E.R.A.
“He’s putting everything together,” Red Sox Manager Alex Cora said after Game 3. “The pitch mix — good breaking balls, good cutters, good fastballs. You almost have to be perfect in that situation, and he was perfect.”
Or very nearly.
Cora had set out hoping to preserve Eovaldi for Game 4. But as late afternoon dragged into early evening and beyond, Cora was cycling through pitchers and running out of options. Eovaldi was the ninth pitcher whom Cora called on, and Cora said he kept checking on him between innings. Cora recalled their brief conversations.
“I’m good,” Eovaldi kept telling him. “I’m good.”
Sure enough, Eovaldi was hitting 99 miles per hour with his fastball in the 17th inning. He struck out the Dodgers’ Justin Turner on three pitches to send the game to the 18th.
But he soon ran into trouble against Muncy, throwing him a 90-m.p.h. cutter on a full count. Muncy had narrowly missed hitting a home run in the 15th inning, sending a blast that hooked foul by a few feet. But Muncy mashed this one into the bleachers in left-center.
The fairy tale was over for Eovaldi, who took the loss — one of the finest losses in postseason history.
“I told him how proud I was of him,” Cora said. “The effort was amazing.”
At the same time, the Red Sox might regret letting that effort go to waste. Cora broke the emergency glass by summoning Eovaldi to the mound in the first place, and then by leaving him in there to throw pitch after pitch.
Ahead of Game 4, Cora’s starting rotation was a bit shredded — and he knew that would be the case. But it was a risk worth taking, and Eovaldi rewarded everyone with a performance worth remembering.