Nathan Eovaldi leaves a great last impression … again


Nathan Eovaldi is the master of leaving you wanting more.

Sometimes it's more results, more along the line of what one would expect from a pitcher living life in the midst of a four-year, $68 million contract. There is no escaping that reality, as a 5.04 combined ERA over the last two seasons would suggest.

And then there are nights like Wednesday.

You watch Eovaldi pitch a game like he did against the Orioles in the Red Sox' 9-1 win and it's human nature to yearn for another dose of what the pitcher was delivering. It's the kind feeling Dave Dombrowski clearly had when committing to the pitcher's current contract after those postseason heroics.

And even with all the downturns it's a feeling that still won't go away.

"I love watching him pitch," said Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke after his team's third win in a row.

While the optimism supplied by Tanner Houck and Nick Pivetta over the past week has tempered frustration over slipping down in the Draft order, nobody can supply a tidal wave of "what if?" Like Eovaldi.

He represents the potential for an on-the-mound dominance few in baseball possess.

This time it was six shutout innings that included eight strikeouts. It punctuated a three-appearance run since returning from a calf injury that saw Eovaldi allow one run over 14 innings, fanning 19 and walking just one.

When the 2020 story was finally told for the 30-year-old, there were nine starts with a 3.72 ERA, with the Red Sox going 6-3 in those appearances. On the surface, the Sox would probably take that resume from a pitcher which was supposed to be its No. 3 guy in the rotation.

But uncertainty is still going to linger. That is Eovaldi's lot in life until further notice.

Whether it's a lack of production -- as was the case when building a 5.93 ERA over his first five starts this season -- or injuries, benefit of the doubt isn't quite in the pitcher's corner as of yet.

What we do know is that Eovaldi is heading into 2021 healthy and brimming with the same sort of confidence he springboards out of 2018 with. Those two things -- along with his 100 mph fastball, lethal split-finger and wipeout slider -- will have to be good enough for now.

It's a step in the right direction for a team and a pitcher who have spent way too long running in place.

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Eovaldi wrapped up his 2020 season with a 4-2 record and 3.72 ERA in nine starts.