Boston pitcher Nathan Eovaldi reacts to after giving up an RBI double to the Yankees’ Anthony Rizzo in the first inning Friday night at Fenway Park in Boston. Eovaldi allowed two runs in six innings as the Red Sox won in extra innings. AP Photo/Michael Dwyer

BOSTON — Chris Sale is out for the year and Nathan Eovaldi is throwing with his lowest average fastball velocity since 2012.

Without an ace, the Boston Red Sox season should be over.

And yet?

Eovaldi’s Friday night start against the New York Yankees at Fenway Park might not be remembered by many, but it should go down as one of his most impressive in a Red Sox uniform.

Clearly not fully recovered from a mid-season injury, something Manager Alex Cora and pitching coach Dave Bush have both hinted at, Eovaldi managed to piece together six innings of two-run ball while throwing a season-high 108 pitches against the American League’s best offense as the Sox walked off on the Yankees, 3-2, on Friday.

It was perhaps their best win of the season – either first or second, with their 6-5 win over the Yankees at Yankee Stadium in early July, when Xander Bogaerts manufactured an extra-innings run all on his own, being the other in contention.


And it shouldn’t have happened.

When Eovaldi threw a 93-mph fastball that Aaron Judge demolished over the Green Monster to start the third inning, the sellout crowd at Fenway Park couldn’t contain its reaction. Yankees fans jumped to their feet. Red Sox fans had their jaws on the floor.

Judge smacked that thing so hard and so far it should’ve ended the Sox’ season right there.

Or at the very least, shattered the confidence of the man on the mound.

Here’s a guy who made a career out of throwing 100-mph fastballs, touched 102 mph in a game in 2015 and hit 101 mph as recently as 2020. But behind Eovaldi’s cannon for an arm is also a five-pitch repertoire that would make most pitchers envious.

And while he’s averaging just 94 mph on his fastball since he came back from the injured list on July 15, he’s starting to figure out how to survive with what he’s got.


“He has a lot of skills as a pitcher,” Bush said Friday. “Sometimes when guys throw hard it overshadows the other things he can do. He’s always been a four- or five-pitch guy. He’s just showing the skills he has.”

This is why former Red Sox boss Dave Dombrowski felt comfortable handing Eovaldi a four-year, $68-million contract after the 2018 postseason, when Eovaldi threw 97 pitches over six innings of one-run ball in Game 3 of the World Series, two days after he pitched in Games 1 and 2.

It was a remarkable feat of athletic endurance and perseverance. And now he’s doing it again.

When he went on the injured list in early June, the Red Sox identified his injury as being back-related, but also said it was hip-related, and somewhere along the lines there was confusion over what the injury actually was.

Perhaps this offseason, they’ll share more. But the proof is in the pudding, and the pudding indicates Eovaldi hasn’t been healthy since.

Don’t forget that when Eovaldi first came back to pitch a key Friday night game at Yankee Stadium before the All-Star break, Cora later said, “it’s not that we rushed him, but we needed him in that outing in New York.”


And on Friday, Bush said something similar, noting that Eovaldi is still recovering.

“The fastball isn’t where he wants it to be,” Bush said. “He’s confident it’s going to come back. As he recovers, the velo is down a little bit. But he still makes it work. He knows how to use his pitches and he pitches. Instead of trying to overthrow, he just pitches.”

Without a healthy Eovaldi, it looked like the Sox would never get hot again.

And when Judge homered off him for the Yankees to take a 2-0 lead in the third inning on Friday, any remaining hope from the crowd at Fenway seemed to be shattered.

Eovaldi didn’t see it that way.

“He’s on fire right now,” he said of Judge. “He’s locked in at the plate. I felt like I located that pitch. It was 93 mph, which, if I had a little more velo behind it, maybe it sinks by him. But you just tip your cap to him. He’s having an outstanding year.”


As fast as the ball left the park, Eovaldi turned the page.

Over the next four innings, he allowed just one walk and three singles while holding the Yankees’ high-powered offense scoreless.

He finished the night with 36 fastballs and generated just a single whiff. Why keep throwing fastballs when the pitch isn’t doing much?

“He’s smart enough and experienced to know when to use his fastball, as well as his other pitches,” Bush said. “It’s just being smart about how he approaches it. Command becomes more important.

“This is just another example of what he can do.”

Eovaldi entered Friday’s game with a 7.11 ERA in five starts since returning from the injured list. And yet somehow, the Sox are now 3-3 in those starts.

He’s a big-game pitcher who is clearly pitching through some health problems and still showing up.

He’s one of the few reasons, if any, to think the Red Sox can crawl back into the playoff chase, and he’s playing for a contract.

“He’s been around a while, he knows how to post,” Bush said. “He wants to go out there and compete. He’s going to give us as much as he can.”

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