'Big Game Nate' Eovaldi finally stumbles in postseason
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Nathan Eovaldi responded to an early lead in Game 1 of the World Series by striking out the side in a shutdown inning.
For the first time this October, Big Game Nate couldn't keep it going.
The Texas Rangers right-hander gave up three hits in a span of four batters after striking out four in a row and was on the hook for his first loss this postseason after winning his first four starts. Corey Seager's tying two-run homer in the ninth left Eovaldi with a no-decision, and Adolis García's homer in the 11th gave Texas a 6-5 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks.
“I didn't do my job tonight going out there and getting us deep into the game, and the bullpen picked me up,” Eovaldi said after five Texas relievers combined for 6 1/3 scoreless innings. “They kept us in the game, all the way up there until the end.”
It was the first World Series appearance for Eovaldi since he was with Boston in 2018 and pitched the final six innings of a 3-2, 18-inning loss in Game 3 against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Even though Eovaldi gave up Max Muncy's game-ending homer leading off the bottom of the 18th in LA, Boston manager Alex Cora credited Eovaldi with saving the bullpen and helping the Red Sox win the Series in five games.
That made him an October hero, but this was his first start in the Fall Classic.
García's homer was the first game-ender in the World Series since Muncy's shot off Eovaldi, who smiled when told that by a reporter after the game.
“I mean, it was a long night,” Eovaldi said when asked what he remembered about that late-night loss in California. “It's tough when you're out there in the bullpen, especially out there in Dodger Stadium, you're far away and down the line. I was glad we were able to come out on top tonight.”
The 33-year-old Texan's postseason reputation has only grown since that relief appearance with Boston, capped by his best showing so far at 4-0 with a 2.42 ERA coming into this World Series.
Six batters in, it was much of the same — with strikeouts of Gabriel Moreno, Christian Walker and Tommy Pham in the second — until rookie Corbin Carroll's two-run triple in the third erased a 2-0 Texas lead.
Eovaldi couldn't keep it together even after the Rangers got a run for a 3-3 tie. Pham connected on the second pitch of the fourth inning for a solo homer.
The splitter was Eovaldi's best pitch early, getting swinging strikes on six of the first seven times he threw it. But the liner from Carroll past center fielder Leody Taveras and Pham's third postseason homer both came off that pitch.
“Maybe I went to the well too many times with the splitter on Carroll,” Eovaldi said. “It's frustrating to me, especially once the offense was able to give me two runs on the board, and I turned around and gave it right back. We answered back, tied it up 3-3, and I did the same thing.”
The All-Star pitcher gave up five runs in 4 2/3 innings after allowing seven over 26 innings in his first four starts this postseason. He did have the most strikeouts for a Texas pitcher in a World Series game with eight.
Eovaldi had to rebuild his stamina late in the season after missing a month and a half with a right forearm strain. But he was ready for the playoffs. He had gone at least six innings in each of his previous four starts before Friday.
“Fortunately, the offense could pick him up this time,” Seager said. “He's done it enough for us in the past. It was great to give him that one.”
AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb