Major League Baseball

Pressure on Eovaldi as Red Sox seek sweep of O’s

MLB1ORIOLES (39-84) AT RED SOX (66-59)
1:05 p.m. ET; NESN, MASN, MLB.TV

Less than 24 hours from taking the mound for the Boston Red Sox (-1.5) in his first start since April 17, the pressure on right-hander Nathan Eovaldi grew immensely.

On Saturday evening, the Red Sox announced ace left-hander Chris Sale was headed to the 10-day injured list with left elbow inflammation that could end his season. The team is seeking a second opinion on Sale’s test results from renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews, but until then, it’s looking for others to fill the void as it continues to try and work its way back into the American League wild-card picture.

“We gotta keep going, that’s the way it is,” manager Alex Cora said. “As of now, somebody has to step up. That’s the way it works in this business, and we know it.”

Enter Eovaldi. The 29-year-old returns to the rotation with the Red Sox seeking a sweep as they host the Baltimore Orioles (+2) in the finale of a three-game series Sunday afternoon.

Eovaldi (1-0, 5.77 ERA) has made 11 relief appearances for Boston since returning July 22 from surgery to remove a loose body from his throwing elbow. He’ll be opposed by Orioles left-hander Ty Blach (0-1, 13.94).

Eovaldi was set to return to the rotation last week once it was announced that trade acquisition Andrew Cashner was being moved to the bullpen after several ineffective starts. But a need for quality late-inning relief has kept Eovaldi from making the transition until now, as Boston received back-to-back strong starts from Rick Porcello and Eduardo Rodriguez in the first two meetings of the series.

“I just try to keep that mentality the same and be ready to pitch,” Eovaldi said. “As long as I’m prepared for it, I’m ready to go. If I’m told otherwise, I’ll be ready for that.”

As a reliever, Eovaldi posted a 5.40 ERA in 13 1/3 innings, pitching no more than two innings in an appearance. His last three outings have each been scoreless, and he’ll face a team in Baltimore against whom he’s 3-0 with a 4.67 ERA against over seven starts in his career.

The Red Sox have had their way with the Orioles through this point of the series, winning 9-1 on Friday and 4-0 Saturday to extend their unbeaten run to four straight. In addition to strong starting pitching, third baseman Rafael Devers has continued to lead the offense with three home runs and 10 RBIs during a seven-game hitting streak.

The Orioles, meanwhile, have lost 11 of their last 12 games, including six straight. A bright spot came in Saturday’s loss, though, as 2013 first-round pick Hunter Harvey made his long-awaited major league debut in the eighth inning and struck out a pair, hitting 100 mph on the stadium gun.

“It’s crazy,” said Harvey, who has battled numerous injuries since being drafted. “After I got the first pitch out of the way, it was so much easier to breathe. It was fun.”

Blach, claimed off waivers by Baltimore from the San Francisco Giants (-1) earlier this month, will make his second start with his new club. Against the New York Yankees (+1.5) in his Orioles debut on Monday, the southpaw was tagged for seven runs (six earned) over four innings.

Blach will face the Red Sox for the first time in his career.

–Field Level Media

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