If you ever needed proof that pitcher wins and losses are meaningless, look no further than Nathan Eovaldi‘s performance in Game 3 of the World Series. Despite serving up the game-winning home run to Max Muncy in the bottom of the 18th inning and subsequently taking his first postseason loss, Eovaldi was lights-out from the time Alex Cora handed him the ball in the 12th.
While the right-hander was originally called on to pitch a couple innings of relief in advance of his scheduled Game 4 start (and following back-to-back relief appearances in Games 1 and 2 of the World Series, as well), he pushed his pitch count to nearly 100 pitches as he labored through six straight innings. He set down a 1-2-3 inning in the 12th, capped by a blistering 101.1-MPH fastball that induced a swinging strikeout from Justin Turner, then was tagged with an unearned run in the 13th when Ian Kinsler missed a routine throw to first and allowed Muncy to score the tying run.
It wasn’t always that easy for the Dodgers to run the bases against Eovaldi. Of his 97 pitches thrown — 36 more than Game 3 starter Rick Porcello tossed in the first 4 2/3 innings of the game — 62 landed for strikes. When he couldn’t fool batters with his cutter, he threw straight heat, with a whopping 31 pitches registering at or above 98 MPH on the radar gun. By the time Muncy’s home run ball had found a new home in the left-center field stands, Eovaldi had beaten the standing record for most pitches thrown in relief during a World Series game, a feat that was previously accomplished by Dodgers right-hander Charlie Hough during his four-inning, 90-pitch outing in Game 5 of the 1978 World Series.
It wasn’t the only record Eovaldi managed to break during Game 3. With no position players left to turn to, and no available pitchers warming up in the bullpen, the Red Sox were forced to send the righty to the plate twice in order to keep him in the game. He went 0-for-2 with a pair of strikeouts against Dylan Floro and Kenta Maeda and became the first relief pitcher to register multiple plate appearances in the World Series since Cardinals righty Bob Forsch went up against the Twins in 1987 (h/t MLB.com’s Andrew Simon and Manny Randhawa).
Even Dodgers’ skipper Dave Roberts had high praise following the pitcher’s dominant showing on Friday night, telling reporters,
I appreciate everything about what [Eovaldi] did last night. I’m on the other side but I’m a baseball fan, I’m a sports fan. And when you see people like that perform at the highest level and to stay focused, appreciating that that was three out of four for him, to go 90-plus pitches, hold his stuff, use his mix, and take three at-bats I think last night and still keep going and give his team a chance to win, those are moments that don’t come by very often.
The Red Sox may have dropped Game 3, but if Eovaldi’s performance was anything to go by, they’re still more than capable of going the distance in this series.