Nathan Eovaldi returns to the mound as the Boston Red Sox host the Baltimore Orioles in the finale of a four-game series and their penultimate homestand of the season on Thursday afternoon.
Boston (74-81) has been without Eovaldi (5-3, 4.15 ERA) since Aug. 12 due to right shoulder inflammation. He pitched three innings in a rehab start for Triple-A Worcester on Friday.
"I haven't quite been myself out there (because of two different injuries this season)," Eovaldi said recently. "I'm starting to feel that way again and feel good. Unfortunately, the season's almost over, and we're not where we set out to be in spring training."
Eovaldi has missed at least 30 games during each of his injury stints this season. Low-back inflammation kept him out for 33 games in June and July.
An 11-game winner last year, Eovaldi is also expected to pitch during Boston's season-ending series against Tampa Bay next week.
"He's worked so hard to get to this point. Now, we're not going to stop it," Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. "People might think it's for other reasons or whatever, he's a free agent and he wants to show people that he's healthy, but at the same time, I think it's more about who he is as a professional and the value of 162 games."
Pitching keyed Boston's second straight win, as Rich Hill worked six shutout innings and recorded nine of Boston's 12 total strikeouts in a 3-1 decision on Wednesday.
There was just enough offense as Abraham Almonte and Alex Verdugo each homered, giving Boston back-to-back wins after a season-long six-game losing streak.
Verdugo has hits in eight straight games after going 2-for-4 with two RBIs on Wednesday.
Eovaldi pitched a complete game in his May 28 home start against Baltimore after pitching seven scoreless innings with three hits and eight strikeouts against the Orioles on April 30. He is 8-2 with a 3.29 ERA in 17 career starts vs. the Orioles.
The Orioles (80-75) scored 23 runs and hit nine home runs over the first two games of the series, but they managed just a solo shot by Robinson Chirinos on Wednesday.
Despite rising into the American League playoff picture, the Baltimore offense has been held to one run or less on 31 occasions.
"Last couple losses have been hard," Chirinos said. "If you're looking back to ... where we started the season, I think everybody should be proud of what we accomplished this year," Chirinos said. "We still have a chance and that's the only thing you can ask for."
Anthony Santander will look to bounce back as he went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts a game after homering from both sides of the plate for the fourth time this season.
"This is a game where you're going to fail a lot," Santander said. "So it's about continuing to work hard and come in every day and make the proper adjustments, stay mentally locked in."
After Tyler Wells was sidelined last Friday (right shoulder inflammation), Baltimore's Mike Baumann (1-3, 4.32) will pitch Thursday. He made just his second career start on Saturday, allowing two runs on three hits over four innings in a no-decision against Houston.
Baumann made just his third career MLB appearance at Fenway Park last season, taking his first loss on Sept. 18, 2021 after allowing five runs and six hits -- including a three-run home run by Xander Bogaerts -- in two relief innings.
Keegan Akin helped to save the O's bullpen Wednesday, working three shutout innings behind Dean Kremer (8-6).
"That was huge. With the way our bullpen is right now, for Akin to be able to do that, it was big for us for tomorrow," manager Brandon Hyde said.
--Field Level Media