Boston Red Sox fans have been through this before, for all you care. Overachieving then underachieving with the same team in successive seasons tend to make a fan base a bit twitchy, even if they have the Celtics to distract them from their early struggles this season.
But then Nathan Eovaldi slaps them out of their basketball reverie and they’re back to wanting everyone traded, fired, and dropped off on the side of the highway.
Eovaldi, Boston’s best starting pitcher a year ago when they reached the American League Championship Series, decided to pack the Sox’s entire weird season into 14 pitches Tuesday night—or as basic math will show, 2.8 pitches per home run.
Yordan Alvarez, Kyle Tucker, Jeremy Pena, Michael Brantley and Yuli Gurriel of the Houston Astros recreated the greatest moment in baseball history in the second inning by:
- Homering on a 2-1 fastball (Alvarez).
- Homering on an 0-1 fastball (Tucker).
- Homering on an 0-1 fastball (Pena).
- Homering on a 1-1 cutter (Brantley, because Eovaldi sensed the Astros might be on to his fastball).
- Homering on an 0-2 curveball (Gurriel, because Eovaldi was running out of other pitches).
At that point, manager Alex Cora took the hint and replaced Eovaldi with Tyler Danish, who contributed to the Gashouse Gorillas’ conga line by giving up a grand slam to Tucker in the fourth. It was a spectacular performance by any measure, even though the other two times it happened were in 2017 and 2020, when the home run became the only legally allowed way to reach base. And it was even more amazing when you think that Eovaldi breezed through the top of the first in only five pitches.
“He’s a strike-thrower, right?” manager Alex Cora said afterward, explaining what he saw in the brief time he saw it. “He was in the zone, and they had a gameplan. And they got good pitches to hit. I think that’s the bottom line.”
Now when you hear the words “Astros” and “gameplan,” your mind goes to percussive receptacles and Rob Manfred tossing off plea bargains like Skittles, and it’s particularly provocative when coming from Cora, who had to do a year of work release for the same thing. But the 2022 Sox, currently battling with Baltimore for fourth in the AL East, don’t get that as an excuse. They are merely sticking to their pattern of consistency since the 2018 World Series: none.
There is, though, something to the idea that getting your face kicked in this far and this fast is in keeping with the new spirit of playing faster and eliminating all the dead spots in the action. So maybe Nathan Eovaldi is just, as they say, embracing the new baseball. Speed. And pulled neck muscles.