Texas Rangers right-hander Nathan Eovaldi could etch his name in the record books on Friday when he takes the mound for Game 1 of the World Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Arlington, Texas.
Eovaldi (4-0, 2.42 ERA) is aiming to become the first pitcher to win five starts in the playoffs. Randy Johnson (2001), Francisco Rodriguez (2002) and Stephen Strasburg (2019) have recorded five wins in a single postseason, but each of the three pocketed a victory in relief.
Eovaldi, 33, allowed two runs on five hits in 6 1/3 innings in a 9-2 victory over the Houston Astros in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series on Sunday. The Texas native has struck out 28 batters against just four walks in 26 innings in the postseason.
Although Eovaldi is making his first career start in a World Series, it’s not his only appearance in the Fall Classic. He made three relief appearances with the Boston Red Sox in the 2018 World Series versus the Los Angeles Dodgers.
He was the loser of the epic 18-inning Game 3 when he served up Max Muncy’s walk-off homer. Eovaldi allowed two runs (one earned) and three hits in six-plus innings of relief in that game.
“Obviously I’m very grateful for the past experiences. Just being able to participate and get into the World Series was big. I kind of had my moment there,” Eovaldi said on Thursday.
“But coming in, having Game 1, trying to set a tone for the team, there’s a lot of pressure with that, but also a lot of excitement. But definitely ready for this opportunity to go out there, compete against a really good lineup.”
Eovaldi owns a 3-0 mark with a 2.78 ERA in eight career appearances (five starts) against the Diamondbacks.
National League Championships Series MVP Ketel Marte carries a 16-game hitting streak in the postseason into Friday’s opener. Another hit on Friday will put Marte with Manny Ramirez, Derek Jeter and Hank Bauer as the lone players to notch a hit in 17 consecutive playoff games.
Marte went 6-for-14 and joined Christian Walker in belting three homers to help the Diamondbacks win three of four games against the Rangers this season.
Arizona will hand the ball to right-hander Zac Gallen (2-2, 5.24), who’ll try to turn the page from a pair of tough outings in the National League Championship Series when he makes his World Series debut.
Gallen, 28, permitted nine runs on 14 hits — including five homers — over 11 innings in a pair of losses to the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLCS.
“I think for me I said it after the two starts, just lack of execution, really,” Gallen said. “So for me, just trying to execute a little bit better and give us a chance to win, really.
“No secret, I feel like I didn’t help the guys that much. So I’m looking to try and pull my weight this time around.”
The Diamondbacks, however, overcame Gallen’s troubles to dispatch Philadelphia in seven games and advance to their second World Series appearance in franchise history. That’s not too shabby considering some questioned the legitimacy of an 84-win team while certain Phillies players threatened to have a pool party at Chase Field.
“When we hear those things, they’re out there,” Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said. “… And we just put it on our list and keep those receipts and walk around with a little bit more of a chip on our shoulder. It gives you a little bit more motivation. And when you can get a little bit more, you take it.”
Texas manager Bruce Bochy said he wasn’t using a perceived underdog mentality as motivation.
“We really didn’t talk about it. We weren’t concerned with what people thought of us,” Bochy said. “We thought we were good. We thought we belonged and we thought we could win and that’s how we looked at it.”
Gallen struck out 11 batters and allowed one run in six innings of a 6-3 victory over Texas on Aug. 22. He is 1-1 with a 3.57 ERA in three career starts vs. the Rangers.
Gallen will need to tread carefully around ALCS MVP Adolis Garcia and Corey Seager. Garcia went 10-for-28 (.357) with five homers and 15 RBIs in the ALCS, while Seager is 15-for-45 (.333) with three homers, six RBIs and 12 runs during the postseason.