It's a dangerous proposition: Going all in on Nathan Eovaldi.
After his seven-inning outing in the Red Sox' 9-2 win over the Rays Wednesday afternoon, in which Eovaldi allowed just one run, the 31-year-old boasts a 1.46 ERA. In two starts he has allowed two runs over 12 1/3 innings, striking out 11.
He has offered the appearance of everything you would want in a top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher.
It's, obviously, not the first time. That's why Eovaldi is living life in the third season of a four-year, $68 million deal. Remember, for instance, those two first starts in 2018 as a member of the Red Sox in which the righty tossed 15 shutout innings against the Twins and Yankees?
But he has us thinking again. Could this be the year?
Stranger things have happened.
"Good mix of pitches, good breaking ball, good split, fastalls up, down," Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. "We learned a lot about them in spring training, we did. And just one of those you keep watching and watching and probably the same way with them with us. We played them so much that we saw a few things and needed to get better against them, we executed the three games against them. And he was really good. The tempo was amazing and his ability to throw strikes, that started last year. He was really good in the zone and has continued the first two starts."
This time around Eovaldi's fastball topped out at 99 mph, but perhaps more importantly he induced 17 swings and misses from Rays batters. His fastball was good. He threw his curveball 20 times and his slider 19, both with good effectiveness. And there were eight splitters for good measure.
Of note: Eovaldi recorded strikeouts with all five of his pitches.
The difference to date? Eovaldi has leaned on that four-seamer much more, seemingly attacking hitters at a greater rate. In his first start, the pitch was used 51 percent of the time. Last year the rate of 37 percent, with his cutter not far behind. (He threw only nine cutters.)
Sure, it's only two starts. And, yes, by the time Eovaldi exited he carried an eight-run lead. But if this is finally next-level Nathan, it will make a big difference for this team.
"The way we started the season 0-3 against the Orioles, obviously we’re not happy with that," Eovaldi said. "Then to come in, last night was a huge game for us, we were able to come in, come back from behind, tie it up in the late innings, ultimately win the game, both sides of the bullpens were down so we were short on guys. For me to be able to come out today, get a little deeper into the game for us, and then for us to come out on top today, have the sweep, especially against the Rays is a big one for us, big series win."