The lasting image of the 2018 World Series may well be the performance of a losing pitcher, a starter used in relief for three consecutive games, Nate Eovaldi.
The Red Sox prioritized re-signing Eovaldi this offseason, and in doing so, committed to maintaining what everyone believed would be their core strength a year ago: the rotation.
Most of the season, the rotation at least shared the spotlight. The bats were incredible last year, aided by the addition of J.D. Martinez and the arrival of Mookie Betts, the MVP version. The lineup’s turnaround from 2017 drew a large amount of attention, perhaps occasionally shrouding how good the rotation was all year.
But the bedrock for the ’18 Sox was always supposed to be the starters, and in the end, that group went above and beyond. David Price (13 2/3 innings pitched), Eovaldi (8 IP), Eduardo Rodriguez (6 1/3 IP), Chris Sale (5 IP) and Rick Porcello (4 2/3 IP) accounted for 37 2/3 innings in the Fall Classic, leaving 15 1/3 innings to the regular relievers.
The majority of the starters’ appearances were in relief to boot, seven of 12.
Porcello, emotional and a leader, looked back on what the rotation specifically was able to do.
“Probably those couple of days or that week after the parade, and kind of just recovering physically and mentally, we thought about the things we accomplished as a team and our rotation,” Porcello said. “What Nathan did in the World Series was unheard of, and that was incredible. Unless you’ve thrown in big league games and pitched back to back, you don’t quite know what that feels like. That’s why it was so special to me, and motivating and inspirational.
“The night before David started in Houston [in Game 5 of the ALCS], he threw 60, 70 pitches in the bullpen and then found his changeup, and arguably what he did in the bullpen that night and working on it and sacrificing how he’s going to feel physically to find whatever pitch he needed to find was a pretty big turning point for us. Because he actually dominated from there on out and was the horse that we could rely on. He went out and shut everyone down.
“Chris battling through everything that he battled through and taking the ball, no questions asked, and just all the way down the list. Eddie, our bullpen guys coming in in the third inning, Craig [Kimbrel] doing what he did, yeah, I don’t have a deep enough vocabulary to explain it any other way than, it was special, and you don’t see it that often in today’s game. There’s a lot of managing of pitch counts and workloads and those sort of things. I thought what we did last year was pretty cool, and there’s no reason we can’t do it again.”
Health would be the most obvious reason. Fortunately, the Sox plan to again build their pitchers up slowly after such a taxing season in ’18.
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