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What happened? Boston Red Sox’s Nathan Eovaldi becomes third pitcher in MLB history to allow 5 homers in one inning

MassLive.com logo MassLive.com 5/18/2022 Christopher Smith, masslive.com

BOSTON — “Every ball they hit, they were hitting it hard and they were flying out.”

That’s how Nathan Eovaldi described the second inning when he became just the third pitcher in Major League Baseball history to allow five home runs in one inning. The Red Sox lost 13-4 to the Astros here at Fenway Park on Tuesday.

He is the first Red Sox pitcher to allow four or more homers in an inning.

Eovaldi surrendered home runs to Yordan Alvarez (360 feet), Kyle Tucker (413 feet), Jeremy Peña (411 feet), Michael Brantley (405 feet) and Yuli Gurriel (381 feet). He recorded just two outs during the Astros’ nine-run second inning.

“It’s frustrating,” Eovaldi said. “I don’t know how to describe it. It’s the first time I’ve had to deal with it. It’s extremely frustrating.”

The five home runs combined for an estimated 1,970 feet. As Eovaldi said, Astros hitters jumped on his pitches early in counts.

“You come in with a plan of attack of how you’re gonna come after them and you kind of have a backup plan in case and neither one of them worked,” Eovaldi said. “They were just attacking everything. It’s kind of a helpless feeling out there.”

So what happened? Was he simply not locating his pitches? Was he maybe tipping his pitches? Both?

All eight hits in the second came on strikes most of which were middle of the plate. The pitch chart shows he missed locations on everything.

“They did an outstanding job hitting mistakes,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said.

Cora said he doesn’t think Eovaldi was tipping his pitches. He said the Astros had a great game-plan to be aggressive in the zone.

“He’s a striker thrower. He’s very aggressive in the zone,” Cora said. “And they have the game-plan and they got good pitches to hit. I think that’s the bottom line. ... They were very aggressive. Like I said last year, when they get going it’s that fast-break offense. They attack early and they hit the ball in the air.”

Eovaldi said he’s unsure if he might have been tipping.

“Any time something like this happens, you tend to think that,” Eovaldi said. “I haven’t had a chance to look at it yet. It’s one of the things, we’ll definitely go back and look to make sure we’re not tipping or something like that. But again, I wasn’t locating my pitches very well and I stayed fast with the pitch mix.”

Eovaldi’s awful second inning came after he needed just five pitches to retire the Astros in order during the first inning.

“Every time I feel like I’ve faced the Astros, they come out of the gate swinging and try to jump on the fastball,” Eovaldi said. “I was able to locate in the first. A quick first inning. And then I tried to do the same thing in the second inning and they didn’t miss. Body-wise I feel really good. Mechanically, I felt good. It’s just again, I’ve gotta come out of the gate locked on my location a little bit better.”

Eovaldi has allowed 14 homers in 41 ⅔ innings (3.0 homers per nine innings) this season. He gave up just 15 home runs in 182 ⅓ innings (0.7 homers per nine innings) last year.

“Home runs keep getting me,” he said.

He gave some potential reasons for the increase.

“There’s been times where they’re jumping on the fastballs and I feel like I’ve been giving up a few more home runs this year on the cutter,” he said. “I feel like it hasn’t been as sharp as it has in the past. .... I feel like I maybe getting myself in trouble with the slider where I’m just kind of throwing it for strikes and I don’t. And I kind of put myself in a predictable count. It’s one of the things that I’ll have to go back and look at. I think I just need to start using the splitter a little bit more, too. Get them off the the heater and be able to expand with it.”

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