Boston’s playoff hopes are still alive. Whether the Red Sox will get the first wild card spot, the second, or miss the playoffs entirely nobody knows. With the Yankees, Blue Jays, Mariners and Sox all fighting for two spots and all within a game of each other. It still is anyone’s guess on who takes the remaining two playoff spots in the American League with only two games left for each team. If the Red Sox can hold on to one of those spots, I feel it is clear which pitcher should take the mound to start on Tuesday, October 5. That Pitcher is Nathan Eovaldi.
Why Not Sale?
As a Red Sox fan, your instinct might be to pick your biggest name if it comes down to one game. Most Red Sox fans will say, ‘Chris Sale should get the ball.’ Well, those people are wrong. Since coming back from surgery this season, Sale has posted a 5-1 record with a 2.90 ERA in 8 starts. He’s also collected 45 strikeouts in 40 inning this season. Those are really good numbers, but it is a small sample size. So, the stats come with a bit of an asterisk when you compare with starters who pitched all year long. However, one could make the argument to go with the hot hand. Sale has been hot since returning to the major leagues. Why not Chris Sale then for a one game playoff? He has a 5.76 career ERA in the playoffs. He has one win in 7 playoff games, including 4 starts. Despite being and “Ace,” Sale hasn’t always been an Ace when the games are at their most important. He’s by no means a bad choice for a big game. Part of why Sale seems to fall off come playoff time is his heavy workload every season. He only threw 40 inning this season. 60 if you count his rehab starts. However, it’s not about Sale not pitching, but more about just having a better choice in the rotation right now.
A Big Game Pitcher
Nathan Eovaldi’s pitching can speak for itself as to why it should be him toeing the rubber on Tuesday night. He’s had a good season for the Sox. He’s won 11 games, struck out 195 batters over 182 innings and put up a 3.75 ERA. Good numbers, and enough to send Eovaldi to his first All-Star game this year. He’s also one of the few starting power pitchers that can consistently touch 99 with his fastball even in the later innings. However, even more than just the pitcher he regularly is, Eovaldi has a way to just turn the dial way up when the games matter more. In the 2018 playoff run Eovaldi has an ERA of 1.61 in 22.1 innings pitched. He collected two wins on two starts and his one loss when he pitched six innings in relief in Game 3 against the Dodgers. Even though Eovaldi got the loss that game, those kinds of gutsy performances are exactly why Nathan needs to take the ball for the wild card game. In that same playoff run he pitched a big Game 3 in the ALCS against the Houston Astros. Going six innings, collecting 4 strikeouts while giving up only two runs for the win. A game that turned the series for the Red Sox and they never looked back. He also pitched Game 3 of the ALDS going seven innings giving up only one run and striking out five against the Yankees in Yankee Stadium. The team you’ll probably be playing if you do make the wild card game.
See You Tuesday Night
Maybe I’m getting a little ahead of myself here, but fate is in the Red Sox hands right now to make the wild card game. The thought of who to save has to be in Alex Cora’s head right now. I’d bet anything that he’s going be looking Nathan Eovaldi’s way for the big game. He has to.