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Rays 6, Athletics 0: Nathan Eovaldi throws six-inning no-hitter

Pretty much the best possible debut

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Oakland Athletics Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Don’t let anyone tell you that moral victories don’t exist.

Making it back from a second Tommy John surgery to pitch in the majors again is a moral victory. Coming back from that second Tommy John, then getting your timetable derailed by loose bodies in your elbow that need to be surgically removed, but then making it back as a starting pitcher anyway is most definitely a moral victory.

Doing all that and then debuting with a six-inning no-hitter? Just about as moral of a victory as they come. And yes, six-inning no-hitters also exist.

In his last rehab start, Nathan Eovaldi went four innings, and threw 75 pitches. Going into the game, Eovaldi thought his limit was set at five innings or 90 pitches, so the complete game was never in play. But darned if Eovaldi didn’t make the most of the pitches he had.

He walked Matt Chapman, the second batter he faced, but never blinked after that. It only took Eovaldi 70 pitches to burn through the Athletics lineup for six innings, striking out four along the way. He threw mostly fastballs (32 of them, topping out at 98 mph), living at the top and the outside of the plate, but bringing his heater back to the inner edge occasionally. He showed three secondary pitches in equal amounts, with his splitter and slider used when he was looking for the strikeout, and his cutter a source of weak contact.

This was a complete performance, and will have Rays fans feeling better about a rotation that will be without Jacob Faria long-term.

It Was Also A Real Victory

With one out in the top of the second inning, Carlos Gomez was able to stay inside of a fastball on the inner third and slice it hard the other way into the right field corner. Stephen Piscotty had some trouble with the carom, and the ever-hustling Gomez was able to cruise into third easily. Johnny Field brought him home with a double puleld into left, just out of the reach of Matt Joyce.

I question Sean Manaea’s pitch selection here. He had so far made Field look bad with a changeup at the bottom of the zone and a fastball away at the top of the zone. With one out and a man on third, this was the time to go for the strikeout. The pitch he threw, a fastball on the inner third, isn’t a strikeout pitch. Field showed off his quick hands. Props to him for making it look like a bad pitch under any circumstances.

His first time though the order, Manaea left a lot of fastballs over the heart of the plate to the Rays right-handed batters. While his fastball sits in the low 90s, his arm angle and delivery make this pitch hard to pick up. Early on, Rays batters did not pick it up, and fouled off or lightly-hit the pitches that might sometimes be called “mistakes.” But second time through the order that didn’t work for Manaea. After hitting C.J. Cron in the shoulder, and giving up a weakly-hit single to Wilson Ramos, he put another one of those fastballs over the heart of the zone to Rob Refsnyder in a 3-1 count. Refsnyder, the quietly-red-hot Ray, blasted it for a three-run homer.

The Rays added a couple insurance runs in the top of the eighth, on a Field home run, some good baserunning from Daniel Robertson, and a double by Cron.

Postscript

After Eovaldi had dealt for as long as the Rays were willing to allow him to go, manager Kevin Cash turned to Wilmer Font, with a four-run lead in the seventh. Font gave up the no-hitter, on a single by Jed Lowrie, and he gave Rays fans a moment of worry on a towering fly ball to center field that Mallex Smith caught against the wall. Font has struggled with the long ball in his short major league career, so that fly ball seemed like his unhappy recent history repeating itself.

No harm was done in those two moments, though, and on the whole Font pitched well. His delivery is very over the top, and his fastball was live, reaching 97 mph, and generating four whiffs on 14 swings. His curve is immense, and his splitter was filthy when he was able to locate it.

Font looks like a major league pitcher.

Vidal Nuno finished the game.

Some other notes:

  • On Late Night With the Rays, Sergio Romo said that Nathan Eovaldi is “an undercover BA,” which I assume means “Brian Anderson.”
  • It was a very windy night in Oakland, which made a few fly balls interesting. We’ll let Gomez explain.
“It’s windy.”
  • Nathan Eovaldi works fast.
  • Also sometimes he works quick, as in, he throws a quick pitch fastball, and the rehabbing Jacob Faria likes that.
  • With that win, the Rays take a full game lead on Oakland, and now sit between Oakland and the Los Angeles Angels in the AL Wild Card standings. The Rays are one game behind the Angels, and five games behind the Mariners, who currently inhabit the second Wild Card spot.