Boston Red Sox: Nathan Eovaldi set for a career defining start

Starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi #17 of the Boston Red Sox (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi #17 of the Boston Red Sox (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

The Boston Red Sox 2021 regular season was a whirlwind campaign. After coming out of the gate on fire, they struggled for much of the second half, but still were good enough to hold onto the top wild card spot in the American League. Now, the fate of their season falls on one game against their dreaded rivals, the New York Yankees.

The setup of the wild card game, which involves the two wild card teams facing off in a do-or-die game, is subject to much debate, but that’s for another time. For now, the focus is on winning their upcoming game.

The Sox will be on their home turf of Fenway Park thanks to them winning the season series over the Yankees by a single game (11-10). They will have their fans behind them in the biggest game of their season, and they may very well end up needing them in this one. The one thing the Red Sox know they will need tonight though is a standout performance from their starter, Nathan Eovaldi.

It’s been a standout season for Eovaldi so far, and it’s only fitting he will be on the hill with Boston’s season on the line. He had shown flashes of dominance throughout his career, but struggled with consistency and health, and never found his groove throughout a full season. That changed this season, and now Boston is counting on Eovaldi to deliver the goods, or else they may end up watching the rest of the playoffs from the comforts of their homes.

Why this start is so important for Nathan Eovaldi and the Boston Red Sox

It’s not a stretch to say that this could be a career defining moment for Eovaldi. He emerged as one of the most dominant arms in the postseason during the Red Sox 2018 World Series run. His seven inning outing during the 18 inning marathon that was Game 3 of the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers was one of the most iconic pitching performances in Red Sox history, even though Boston ended up losing the game.

Eovaldi’s heroics during the postseason, during which he posted an absurd 1.61 ERA over 22.1 innings, earned him a nice four year deal worth $68 million from former Sox general manager Dave Dombrowski. It seemed a bit optimistic at the time given Eovaldi’s injury struggles, and the fact that the 2018 postseason run was the best stretch of his entire career up to that point.

Up until this season, those fears proved to be accurate. Eovaldi only pitched in 23 games during the 2019 season, and posted an ugly 5.99 ERA on the season. He bounced back in his return to the starting rotation last season, although it flew under the radar given the state of last season’s Sox team. But this season, Eovaldi proved to be worth every penny of that deal.

Eovaldi finished the season with an 11-9 record while sporting a tidy 3.75 ERA. He made 32 starts, which was tied for most in the league, and struck out 195 batters. For a guy who struggled with consistency throughout his entire career, Eovaldi showed what he is capable of when he can stay on the mound. He pitched like an All-Star, and rightfully earned his first All-Star appearance of his 11 year career.

The problem is, all that stuff goes out the window now. What happened in the 162 game season is really not relevant anymore. Eovaldi’s season, and the Boston Red Sox season, all comes down to one game. Eovaldi had a great season, but how he performs tonight will determine how it will be remembered for years to come.

Eovaldi spent the entire campaign proving his detractors wrong, but it ultimately won’t matter if he flops tonight. He was a star during the 2018 postseason, but that was three years ago. Boston is a city that craves championships, and while expecting this team to win it all this season may be a bit far-fetched, you know Boston wants to see their team send their New York rivals home for the offseason.

There are a myriad of reasons why this is Eovaldi’s most important start of his career, and he controls the Boston Red Sox fate. If the lineup decides to show up and take the pressure off of him, so be it, but I know I’m not going to be counting on them to do that against Yankees ace Gerrit Cole.

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Nathan Eovaldi is the most important man in the baseball world tonight, and there’s no doubt that his performance will play a key part in deciding which of these two teams move onto to face the Tampa Bay Rays in the divisional round.