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One ace down, another rises up: Nathan Eovaldi pitches another gem for the Rangers

Nathan Eovaldi hasn't given up a run in more than two weeks.
Credit: AP
Texas Rangers' Nathan Eovaldi pitches against the Oakland Athletics during the seventh inning of a baseball game in Oakland, Calif., Thursday, May 11, 2023. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)

DALLAS — On April 24, Cincinnati Reds catcher Tyler Stephenson stepped into the box against Rangers starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi, with a runner on third base. It was the bottom of the third inning, and the Rangers led 5-3. But Eovaldi was stumbling, trying to limit the damage after a two-run triple by Spencer Steer.

Eovaldi worked ahead on Stephenson, running the count to 0-2. But with no outs, all Stephenson had to do was put the ball in play. And he did, hitting a weak ground ball to third base. Steer scored, and Texas' lead shrunk to 5-4.

More than two weeks and 28 innings later, Eovaldi has yet to give up another run.

The Rangers' No. 2 starter is pitching like a No. 1.

He was at it again Thursday night in Oakland, throwing 8 2/3 scoreless innings in a 4-0 win against the Athletics. Eovaldi set a new career high with 12 strikeouts. At one point, he struck out six in a row. With two outs in the seventh inning, he had faced the minimum number of batters.

And he showed, again, the durability that's been a hallmark of his recent outings.

His first fastball of the game was 95 mph. His last fastball -- his 113th pitch of the game -- was 96 mph.

A two-out double and a walk in the ninth inning forced manager Bruce Bochy to pull Eovaldi in favor of closer Will Smith. But Smith finished the job for his seventh save of the year, Eovaldi got his fifth win, and Eovaldi's scoreless innings streak stayed intact.

When Eovaldi makes his next scheduled start Tuesday against the Atlanta Braves, it will mark three weeks since he's given up a run.

"It's just been so fun to watch the man work out there," Bochy told Bally's John Rhadigan after the game. "Just really good mechanics. Just effortless."

Eovaldi credited his splitter Thursday night; he went to the pitch 30 times against the A's, and got 12 swings and misses. But when you give up three hits across more than eight innings, you're working everything well, and Eovaldi had regular success with four different pitches.

He carved through the A's lineup, touching 98 mph with his fastball and working the splitter, curveball and cutter on both low corners of the zone. 

"I feel like I've really settled into my mechanics," Eovaldi told reporters after the game.

How's this for settling in?

His 28 2/3 scoreless innings are the most by a Rangers pitcher since Yovani Gallardo went 33 1/3 scoreless in 2015. (The franchise record was set by Kenny Rogers with 39 scoreless innings in 1995).

Eovaldi's run of three straight starts of at least eight scoreless matches only two other pitchers in franchise history, Martin Perez in 2014 and Charlie Hough in 1983.

And Rangers radio announcer Jared Sandler had this particular note, which speaks to the rarity of Eovaldi's durability and effectiveness: His three straight 8-plus shutout innings streak is the first in all of baseball since Clayton Kershaw did it in 2015.

Oh, and if you haven't guessed by now, the 28.2 straight scoreless innings are the most in baseball this year.

Maybe the more notable aspect of Eovaldi's performance - at least the lucky side of it, for the Rangers - is the timing.

Jacob deGrom, the jewel of the Rangers' offseason signings, went down with elbow inflammation during his April 28 start against the Yankees.

The next night, Eovaldi took the mound and pitched a shutout for only the second time in his career.

That's not to suggest he's a Cinderella story, or anything close to it. Eovaldi was an All-Star in 2021, a World Series champion in 2018 and he's earned nearly $100 million in salary with a very hard-throwing right arm.

But he's never had a run like this. 

And the Rangers couldn't have asked for better timing.


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