Leaning on Nathan Eovaldi only Red Sox thing that resembles 2018


It sure seemed Ron Roenicke wanted to answer the query with a simple "yes."

The question: "It must feel like every time Nate is on the mound you guys feel like you have to win these games ..."

The actual answer: "Well, I don’t want to feel that way but I know what you’re saying. We count on Nate to keep us in games, which he has. Because we know he has a big arm, we know every time he goes out there we think we’re going to win. I know we haven’t scored enough runs like we’re going to. Put it this way, when Nate pitches we feel like we have a great chance to win. I don’t want to think that we have to win every time he’s out there. But we certainly feel like we have a great opportunity when he takes the mound."

'Does it feel like you have to win every time Nate takes the mound?' Roenicke ... pic.twitter.com/gaFrdA76ty

— Rob Bradford (@bradfo) August 5, 2020

The Red Sox do have to win when Eovaldi starts. It isn't complicated. That's why they were left with the feeling they had after dropping a 5-1 decision to the Rays at Tropicana Field Tuesday night. It's one thing to be 3-8, but it's another to wear the record while waking up after squandering your once-ever-five-days best chance at a win.

This isn't about blaming Eovaldi at all.

He is the same guy who took the mound at Dodger Stadium in Game 3 of the World Series for six relief innings during the wee hours of the night, resulting in the only clubhouse standing ovation you will likely ever see after a loss. That night Eovaldi had no problem throwing the team on his back, just like he isn't shying away from this challenge.

The numbers might not jump out of the page, both in his most recent outing and overall production since coming to Boston, but the Red Sox should feel lucky to have Eovaldi. He is one of the few elements on this Red Sox team that doesn't feel all that different than two years ago.

Sure, there is the feeling that there sometimes should be more. This was the guy whose introduction to the Red Sox, coming exactly two years before his latest start, was eight innings of shutout ball against the Yankees. Since then he is only 6-6 with a 4.72 ERA, making 26 starts. And his most recent appearance resulted in giving up four runs over five innings. Not exactly the stuff aces' resumes are built from.

But at a time the Red Sox desperately need someone to remind them it wasn't all that long ago they were actually world champs instead of one of the worst teams in baseball, Eovaldi has done his part.

He could have made excuses about not getting a key fourth-inning call or watching as a sure third out bounced off a catwalk, both of which ultimately led to Hunter Renfroe's two-run double which would prove to be all the Rays needed. But he didn't. Because that's not what aces do. And in this world the Red Sox have found themselves in there is no more sure thing than which pitcher is defined as their No. 1.

"We’re definitely struggling," Eovaldi said. "We’re trying to do everything we can to come back on top. Today was a big game. I felt like I needed to step up and do a lot better than I did in the fourth and fifth inning when I let in two runs each inning. We had a lead early in the game and I gave that up. I feel like that’s on me. I feel like I have to go deeper into games, I feel like the starter can really turn the tide for us and hopefully, (Martin) Perez can take the ball tomorrow and do that job for us."

Dave Dombrowski caught a lot of heat for signing Eovaldi to that four-year, $68 million deal after riding that standing ovation to a Duck Boat parade, both from the fans and likely, later on, the ownership group. And some might point to the deal as one of the pieces that made this organization so desperate to reach the end of the month for the much-anticipated resetting of the luxury tax threshold. But maybe Dombrowski was on to something. 

Nobody was going to argue hanging on to Andrew Benintendi and here he is 2-for-29 with 12 strikeouts. The same goes for Jackie Bradley Jr., who broke an 0-for-21 skid with a ninth-inning single. Or how about Chris Sale? He went 6-11 with a 4.40 since securing that final out at Dodger Stadium, now having to wait until next May or June for a chance to find his old self. 

The point is that leaning on Eovaldi a little isn't a bad thing, as history would suggest. Having virtually an entire organization count on him becoming a once-or-twice-a-week savior? That seems like a bit much.