For four and a half years, Nathan Eovaldi was a linchpin of the Boston Red Sox.
Then, like almost every other member of the 2018 team that won a franchise-record 108 regular-season games, a division title, and a World Series ring, Nasty Nate was gone. He signed a 2-year, $34 million contract with the Texas Rangers, and proceeded to have one of the best seasons of his career.
The 33-year-old workhorse entered his Tuesday night start against his former team with a 2.96 ERA across 22 starts, by far the best mark of his 12-year career. Before going on the injured list in late July with a forearm strain, he was in the midst of a Cy Young-worthy season, posting a 2.69 ERA across 19 starts (123 ⅔ innings).
The Red Sox scored three earned runs off Eovaldi in the third, pushing his ERA up to 3.05 by the end of his five innings. He issued three walks and struck out three, but on the whole, his former teammates did minimal damage against him in a 6-4 loss.
Meanwhile, after four consecutive quality starts, the Red Sox looked like their old selves again on Tuesday: a too-short start, a shaky bullpen, and not enough offense to power them to a win.
Tanner Houck gave up two earned runs on three hits, including a solo home run, walked four, and struck out four. Though he didn’t record an out in the fifth inning, he still managed to extend the team’s streak of starters not allowing more than three runs to 10 games.
The starter and bullpen played with fire all night. For the seventh time this year, the Red Sox pitching staff combined for at least eight walks. They only had two such games in the first half of the season – Opening Day and once in May – but now have five since the All-Star break, including three in September.
“We were off,” Alex Cora told reporters. “Command was off.”
They were helped along by a Rangers team that failed to capitalize on most of their opportunities. Sound familiar?
Tied entering the bottom of the seventh, the sloppiness finally boiled over, but only just. Chris Murphy began the frame by hitting Marcus Semien with a pitch and giving up a single to Corey Seager. After getting the first out, Alex Cora replaced Murphy with John Schreiber, who promptly gave up a go-ahead RBI single to Josh Jung, walking Robbie Grossman to load the bases, and after striking out Adolis Garcia, walking Jonah Heim to bring in a run.
Once again, the Rangers shot themselves in the foot. With the bases still loaded and a chance to really put the game out of reach, Loedy Taveras struck out looking to end the inning.
Masataka Yoshida gave Boston a 3-1 lead in the top of the third, and remained on top until the bottom of the sixth, when Texas plated two. After re-tying the game in the top of the seventh, the Red Sox couldn’t overcome the two runs the Rangers added in the bottom of the frame. Facing a bullpen that’s struggled mightily of late, the Red Sox went quietly into the night.
Ten games left before the offseason.