Nathan Eovaldi hasn’t been great this season. The thirty-two-year-old veteran entered last night’s contest against the Athletics with a 3.77 earned-run average, which would’ve been a perfectly cromulent number in the steroid-infused late 1990s but is a lackluster one for our present nouveau-deadball era. What truly jumps out most is Eovaldi’s fielding independent pitching (FIP) mark of 5.24, which is beyond dreadful, and no doubt fueled by his aversion to keeping the ball in the ballpark. His 16 homeruns allowed leads Major League Baseball.
On this cool evening at the Coliseum, however, the Red Sox right-hander looked more like the All Star from last year whose 2.79 FIP was tops in the American League. Eovaldi worked six shutout innings, allowing just four hits and a walk, while striking out eight, and it was just his second start out of 11 in which he did not surrender a longball. The A’s did hit him hard here and there; for example, in the fifth inning, Sean Murphy and Kevin Smith rocketed deep drives to right field that were snagged by Sox right fielder Franchy Cordero and may have been homeruns – or at least doubles high off the wall – in warmer daytime conditions.
But in front of a robust (by modest A’s standards) crowd of 17,852 – less than half were Red Sox fans, which proves that even bandwagons are not immune to planned obsolescence – the A’s bats were largely impotent as Oakland found itself on the sick end of a 7-2 final decision. Not that they didn’t have opportunities to dent Eovaldi’s armor, but they simply could not locate that big hit. In the opening stanza, Jed Lowrie was left to rot in scoring position after Seth Brown whiffed for the final out. In the fourth, the A’s had runners on first and third with one out and came up empty. By then, Boston had merely a 2-0 lead, a not-insurmountable discrepancy except that, well, we’re talking about the 2022 Oakland Athletics, a team that ranks near the bottom in just about every essential hitting category. In the seventh, with the Red Sox holding a commanding 4-0 lead and a fresh arm in Tyler Danish on the bump, Chad Pinder led off with a hit and was promptly erased when Murphy grounded into a 6-4-3 double play, a not-surprising outcome for a .199 hitter who tries to pull nearly everything and has the speed of a sea anemone. Murphy's six twin-killings rapped into is tied for the team best (worst?) with Elvis Andrus.
It took an eighth-inning Lowrie double off sinistral Sox reliever Matt Strahm to plate two runs and cut the deficit in half, but, as if offended by this light-hitting bunch in green and gold showing the temerity to make a mockery out of one of their own, the Red Sox responded by adding three runs’ worth of insurance and effectively put the game away.
Athletics starter James Kaprielian pitched into the sixth inning, departing with two runners on and one out and his team down 2-0, and replaced by long-time minor-league vagabond Parker Markel. Markel’s tale is one of stout perseverance, and he may be a fine, upstanding fellow to boot, but his pitching gives off serious Chris Hatcher vibes. Perhaps not surprisingly, his sixth offering yielded a two-run double to Trevor Story that give Boston the aforementioned “commanding” 4-0 lead (both runs were charged to Kaprielian). To Markel’s credit, he settled down and recorded the final two outs of the inning without further damage, punctuating his appearance by picking off Bobby Dalbec, whom Markel had issued a free pass to. Pity the Sox first-baseman: Dalbec had to stand there at the scene of the crime while a comrade brought his hat and glove out to him. That his team prevailed handily absolved him of any serious wrongdoing.
The fireworks sure were cool, though.
** It was country music fireworks night at the Coliseum, and naturally the A’s got into the spirit during the game, outfitting each player on the video boards with superimposed cowboy hats and clothing.