LOS ANGELES – A day later (actually, the same day, to be precise), people from both sides still were talking about what happened hours earlier.
And what Nathan Eovaldi in particular did.
The Red Sox righthander, initially supposed to start Saturday night’s fourth game of the World Series, instead was called on for six innings-plus of relief in a grueling 18-inning, 7-hour, 20-minute Game 3, which ended at 3:30 a.m. ET. Eovaldi, who threw 97 pitches, took the loss after allowing Max Muncy’s leadoff homer in the bottom of the 18th, which gave the Dodgers a 3-2 victory. Eovaldi allowed two runs (one earned) and three hits, striking out five.
Eovaldi, who picked up victories as a starter in ALDS Game 3 against the Yankees and ALCS Game 3 against the Astros, pitched back-to-back games out of the bullpen in Games 1 and 2 of this series, each a scoreless one-inning appearance.
“You don't have to be an expert to appreciate that,” said the Dodgers' Game 5 starter, three-time NL Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw. “It was really, really impressive. Just pitching in Games 1 and 2, one day off. I know he's pitched in the bullpen some, but he's basically a starter this year. So to do that, it's incredible. His stuff speaks for itself, obviously, but what he's able to do. I played with Nate over here for a little bit [in 2011 and ’12], and he's just freakishly strong. Obviously has an incredible arm. But just to be able to do that says a lot about him. It's really impressive.”
Kershaw’s manager, Dave Roberts, also spoke about Eovaldi before Saturday night’s Game 4.
“I appreciate everything about what he did last night,”he said. “I'm on the other side, but I'm a baseball fan, I'm a sports fan. And when you see people like that perform at the highest level and to stay focused, appreciating that that was three out of four [games in the series] for him, to go 90-plus pitches, hold his stuff, use his mix and take three at-bats, I think, last night and still keep going and give his team a chance to win, those are moments that don't come by very often.”
Roberts referenced the performance of Madison Bumgarner in the 2014 World Series against the Royals, when the lefthander won Games 1 and 5 as a starter, then earned the save in a 3-2 victory in Game 7 in Kansas City with five scoreless innings.
“I think one of our players mentioned it, in recent memory, what Bumgarner did in the World Series, and obviously you can talk about Sandy Koufax, who was there last night, and guys like that who did it more often as far as kind of pitching three games [in a series],” Roberts said. “But in recent times, it just doesn't happen. And so it was pretty special.”
The Red Sox, of course, found Eovaldi nothing short of heroic. Alex Cora, who typically doesn’t believe in team meetings, called one after the game, and when he mentioned Eovaldi, players gave the pitcher a standing ovation. Rick Porcello, who started Game 3 and allowed one run and three hits in 4 2/3 innings, said Eovaldi’s outing moved him to tears.
“After the game was over, I started crying,” Porcello said. “He literally gave everything he had on every single pitch.”
Chris Sale, tabbed to start Sunday’s Game 5, couldn’t praise Eovaldi enough.
“That was nothing short of incredible,” Sale said Saturday. “What he did last night I think picked us up as a team. I don't know if Nate's ever thrown back-to-back days in his career. And then to come out after one day off, throwing back-to-back days to throw into the seventh inning of a game that was high leverage, high intensity, that's everything you want in a ballplayer and a teammate. He picked us up big time last night. I'll never forget what he did.”