Inning after inning, Nathan Eovaldi took the mound. The Boston Red Sox right-hander has shown the ability for extended outings this season, reaching 101 pitches on three occasions.
But there was nothing like this — and he’s never done it in his 11-year career, either — blowing past 101 pitches and not stopping until he’d thrown his first-ever complete game. Eovaldi ran into the occasional hiccup against the Orioles, a rocky start and a blast over the Green Monster.
For the most part, however, the Red Sox starter cruised all the way to the end, not allowing more than one base runner in the final eight frames. Eovaldi powered Boston’s 5-3 victory in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader, a steady presence who prevented the sort of late-inning fireworks that helped carry Baltimore (19-28) to a come-from-behind victory Friday night.
“We have a tough time against him almost every time out,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “He’s a tough at-bat.”
The Orioles’ best chance at a big inning came in the first frame, but they couldn’t capitalize on the first three batters reaching safely, with Anthony Santander’s RBI single the lone breakthrough.
Following that knock, Baltimore still had runners on first and second with no outs. But Eovaldi escaped through a popup and double play — one of the 14 groundouts Eovaldi forced compared with just one flyout.
“We couldn’t add on,” Hyde said. “That kind of hurt. But yeah, Eovaldi’s really good and he had good stuff.”
After catcher Robinson Chirinos’ two-run home run over the Green Monster to level the score at 3 in the fifth, the bats soon went quiet, ending Saturday’s first game in a less-than-emphatic manner.
In a game defined by pitching, the Orioles’ usual workhorse Jordan Lyles struggled while Eovaldi — who completed seven innings twice this season — just kept going and going.
“Props to their guy going the distance,” Lyles said. “He didn’t have his best stuff early on, either. But he was able to settle down and give them some much-needed innings with the second game coming up.”
Shorter than desired
Lyles could pinpoint just one changeup he liked out of his hand — and it resulted in a base hit from Rafael Devers.
“Just a lot of changeups out of the arm that were automatic balls that guys didn’t have to respect,” Lyles said. “Didn’t land any curveballs for strikes early in counts. So I kind of became a one-pitch pitcher with the slider.”
Even that slider wasn’t Lyles’ favorite, lacking some of the movement he usually puts on the pitch. And it resulted in his shortest outing of the season, lasting 4 1/3 innings while giving up three runs on nine hits.
The Orioles have so frequently counted on Lyles to provide length, and it’s a role Lyles cherishes. He does it “for the boys,” he says, wanting to limit the workload on the bullpen.
A lengthy outing during the first game of Saturday’s day-night doubleheader would’ve been the best possible outcome, especially after six relievers were required to cover for right-hander Kyle Bradish’s early exit in Friday night’s series opener.
Still, the damage against Lyles could’ve been more severe, particularly when the Red Sox hit three doubles against Lyles in the second. He labored through that inning, finishing the frame at 51 pitchers before an eight-pitch third helped him at least push into the fifth.
“With the stuff I had today, there should’ve been a lot more runs scored,” Lyles said.
The damage against Lyles all came with two outs in the second, although a strong relay throw from center fielder Cedric Mullins to second baseman Rougned Odor and onward to Chirinos caught Alex Verdugo at the plate.
But a double from Jackie Bradley Jr. and a single from Kiké Hernández brought home three runs against Lyles before left-hander Keegan Akin allowed two. Baltimore required two relievers to close out the first game Saturday, with right-hander Denyi Reyes — the 27th man for the doubleheader — starting what’s likely to be a bullpen game in the nightcap after a rare short outing from Lyles.
“It was a grind,” Lyles said. “A big-time grind. That was the definition of a grind.”
Around the horn
>> A day after infielder Jahmai Jones underwent Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery, the Orioles designated Jones for assignment to free a spot on the 40-man roster. Because Jones is in Triple-A, a move to the 60-man injured list wasn’t possible. If he was on the major league roster, his placement his on the long-term injured list would ‘ve opened a 40-man spot.
>> The Orioles added Reyes as the 27th man for the doubleheader and called up right-hander Cody Sedlock, the club’s first-round draft pick in 2016. To make room, Baltimore optioned right-hander Beau Sulser to Triple-A Norfolk.
Game 2 of doubleheader
Saturday, 6:10 pm
Radio: 97.9 FM, 101.5 FM, 1090 AM