The upside of Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski’s wheeling and dealing was impossible to ignore during the 2018 World Series.
Since taking over for former general manager Ben Cherington in 2015, Dombrowski has been active in his pursuits of several high-profile players — pitchers Craig Kimbrel, David Price, and Chris Sale, and, most recently, designated hitter J.D. Martinez — all of whom helped fuel Boston’s incredible championship season.
But Dombrowski has been just as busy making some lesser-known acquisitions, including two at the July trade deadline this season: Steve Pearce and Nathan Eovaldi. A veteran utility man and a soft-spoken starter.
Few could have anticipated the remarkable impact the modest pair would have during the playoffs, as Dombrowski, at the time, drew flak for not bolstering the Red Sox’ struggling crop of relievers. Little did fans know, however, Pearce and Eovaldi would prove to be indelible to the franchise’s fourth World Series title since the turn of the century — and the bullpen turned out just fine, too.
First, the 35-year-old journeyman.
Pearce, who had played on six teams — including three stints with the Baltimore Orioles — prior to joining the Sox, supplied incredible stretches, as well as a reliable at-bats, throughout the postseason, boasting a .426 on-base percentage. In 43 plate appearances over 13 games, he notched 11 hits, four home runs, and 11 RBI. Three of those homers and eight of those RBI came during the World Series.
His performance earned him World Series MVP honors.
“This has been a lifelong journey,” Pearce said after the Sox clinched the title Sunday. “To be here right now is a dream come true. Best feeling in my life. This is what you grow up wishing that you could be a part of something like this. With that special group of guys out there, to celebrate with them, that was awesome.”
— MLB Stat of the Day (@MLBStatoftheDay) October 29, 2018
On to the mild-mannered man on the mound.
Eovaldi, who missed the entirety of the 2017 season due to Tommy John surgery, logged two masterful outings as a starter in the ALDS and the ALCS. Making his postseason debut against the New York Yankees in Game 3 of the ALDS, he anchored the Sox with five strikeouts in seven innings of a 16-1 beatdown. And against the Houston Astros in Game 3 of the ALCS, he struck out four more in six innings of work. The 28-year-old followed up that performance with 1⅓ shutout innings in relief to help preserve Boston’s 4-1 lead in its series-clinching Game 5.
As if a 1.88 ERA in 14⅓ innings didn’t generate enough buzz, Eovaldi’s character was on full display come baseball’s biggest stage. Against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series, he delivered back-to-back relief appearances — the second of which came with no days of rest — and surrendered no hits on 19 pitches between Games 1 and 2. Game 3, however, took things to another level.
In a late-night chess match at Dodger Stadium, Eovaldi tossed six shutout innings, struck out five batters, and registered over 30 fastballs with a pitch velocity above 98-miles per hour. On his 97th pitch, however, his heroics were foiled by a walk-off solo blast by Dodgers infielder Max Muncy in the 18th inning.
The outcome didn’t detract from Eovaldi’s performance — one that had teammate Rick Porcello in tears.
“I felt privileged to be able to watch what Nathan Eovaldi did,” Porcello said after Game 3. “That was the most incredible pitching performance I’ve even seen.”
Both Eovaldi and Pearce are set to become free agents this offseason.