Epic effort puts Red Sox pitcher Eovaldi among World Series greats

Red Sox pitcher Nathan Eovaldi produced a performance for the ages in a losing effort against the Los Angeles Dodgers in game three of the 2018 World Series (AFP Photo/EZRA SHAW) (GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP)

Los Angeles (AFP) - It goes down as a loss, but Boston pitcher Nathan Eovaldi's valiant six-inning relief effort in game three of the World Series put him among baseball's greats.

The 28-year-old, pencilled in as manager Alex Cora's game-four starter, instead went into game three on Friday with the Red Sox and Dodgers locked at 1-1 in the 12th inning.

It was 2-2 by the time they headed into the 18th, when Max Muncy deposited Eovaldi's 97th pitch of the night -- an 86 mph splitter -- over the left field fence to seal the Dodgers' 3-2 win.

"That was the most incredible pitching performance I've ever seen," said Rick Porcello, the Red Sox pitcher who started on the mound seven hours and 20 minutes earlier.

"Actually after the game was over, I started crying. He literally gave everything he had on every single pitch, and it was special. That's the epitome of reaching down deep."

Dodgers pitching ace Clayton Kershaw, widely regarded as the best pitcher of his generation called it "really impressive" -- especially as it came in the wake of a pair of clutch relief appearances in the eighth innings as the Red Sox opened the World Series with back-to-back wins in Boston.

"You don't have to be an expert to appreciate that," Kershaw said. "Just pitching in games one and two, one day off.

"I know he's pitched in the bullpen some, but he's basically a starter this year. So to do that, it's incredible."

Eovaldi, who grinded his way through the rehabilitation after a second elbow ligament replacement surgery in August of 2016 -- the first coming when he was still in high school nine years earlier.

In his first post-season, Eovaldi has compiled a 1.61 earned run average over 22.1 innings. As a starter in the first two rounds he held his former New York Yankees teammates to five hits and one run over seven innings in winning game three of the American League Division Series and he limited the Houston Astros to two runs over six innings in winning game three of the AL Championship Series.

- 'Ready to go' -

Cora said he had intended the 18th to be Eovaldi's last inning on Friday "regardless" because of his pitch count.

Eovaldi, characteristically, was eager to finish it out.

"This kid is amazing, amazing," Cora said. "You give him the ball, he'll pitch. You don't use him, he won't complain. You take him out in the seventh inning, his first outing in Minnesota, he's like, 'That's it? Yeah, that's it -- OK, cool,'" Cora said.

Cora wasn't surprised that at the team breakfast on Saturday Eovaldi told one colleague he was "ready to go" for the night's game.

"He hasn't approached that to me," Cora said. "We've got to be careful, too, we know that there's a game four and a game five and if necessary a game six.

"So we'll manage and we'll maneuver his workload accordingly."

Even as Eovaldi was bedevilling his batters in game three, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts couldn't help but marvel.

"I'm on the other side but I'm a baseball fan," Roberts said. "When you see people 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 and still keep going and give his team a chance to win -- those are moments that don't come by very often."

Dodgers slugger Joc Pederson would just as soon they don't come by much more in this World Series.

"Hopefully, he's done until game seven or something," Pederson said.