RED SOX INSIDER

Tomase: Why Red Sox feel great about their spot entering ALDS Game 3

RED SOX INSIDER

The Red Sox knew their task in Tampa Bay: split the first two games, then come home to Nathan Eovaldi on the mound for Game 3 of the American League Division Series.

The plan worked and now the Red Sox find themselves with a proven big-game performer and their unquestioned ace on the mound with a chance to push the American League's top seed to the brink.

Just how they drew it up.

Tomase: Cora dominates managerial battle as Sox take control of series

"I love it. It's my favorite time of the year," Eovaldi said. "For us to be in this situation, we've had to fight and battle the whole time to be able to get here and be in this situation. We've had a lot of guys step up to be able to help us out, and I want to be able to continue that and help the team any way I can. I love pitching in these moments and against teams like the Rays."

When the Red Sox acquired Eovaldi in 2018 from Tampa, few envisioned what would happen next. He dominated the postseason, posting a 1.61 ERA in 22.1 innings and delivering the signature outing of the playoffs with six innings of relief against the Dodgers in Game 3. Though he took the loss on Max Muncy's walkoff homer in the 18th inning, the pure guts he exhibited while throwing for the third time in four days became a rallying cry as the Red Sox closed out the series in Games 4 and 5.

He continued his run of postseason dominance with an electric start against the Yankees in Tuesday's wild card game, allowing just four hits and a run in 5.1 innings. He struck out eight and was lifted after only 71 pitches.

 

If he's similarly dealing on Sunday night, don't be surprised if manager Alex Cora leaves him in the game.

"He was amazing," Cora said. "It's a tough game to manage, of course. If it's a five-game or seven-game series, we'll keep him there. But the way our bullpen was and the way we feel about them, I felt like that was the time."

Nasty Nate

Rays' team batting average against Eovaldi this season
.160

The Rays know what they're in for, because Eovaldi owned them this season. He went 2-1 with a 2.39 ERA in four starts, limiting Tampa's hitters to a .160 average. He struck out 31 in 26.1 innings. A number of Rays know him from his time with the team, including manager Kevin Cash.

"Look, he's a power pitcher," Cash said. "I think he's evolved here over the last couple seasons being able to use the cutter, the curveball, the split a little bit more. He's learned about himself, but the adjustments that he makes from start to start, it was talked about from the adjustments he made from the Yankee game during the regular season to the wild card game."

Eovaldi will be paired against rookie Drew Rasmussen in what should be a rollicking Fenway Park. There's no telling if the young Rays hurler will be up to the challenge, but Red Sox fans should feel great about the odds of Eovaldi showing up.

This is, after all, his time of year.

"I don't know if I'm trying to be intimidating out there," Eovaldi said. "I'm going out there and trying to attack. Hopefully, that makes it a little more intimidating. I'm trying not to give in, trying not to show too much emotion out there, whether it's good or bad.

"I like to try to keep it the same, even though I've got a lot of energy out there. … I don't want to take anything for granted. So I put everything I've got out there."