Nathan Eovaldi doesn’t necessarily consider himself an overpowering strikeout pitcher.
But when he’s locating well and getting ahead of the count on batters, there’s no doubt he has the potential to be an effective starter for the Marlins in the future.
Unfortunately for the Marlins, that kind of pitching came an inning too late Sunday.
Eovaldi gave up four hits and walked one batter in an erratic, three-run first inning that the Marlins were unable to overcome against opposing starter Cole Hamels in a 4-1 loss to the Phillies at Marlins Park.
The Marlins finished 8-10 for the season against the Phillies, marking the third consecutive year that they posted a losing record against Philadelphia.
Eovaldi composed himself and finished a respectable six-inning outing in which he allowed only two more hits and no runs over the final five frames. He finished with seven strikeouts and threw 108 pitches in his 12th and final start for the Marlins this season.
“I just wasn’t locating the ball really well and falling behind a lot,” Eovaldi said. “In that second inning I was able to find it right away and locate my off-speed stuff better and throw the fastball. It’s huge to finish strong and save the bullpen not having to run them out there until the seventh inning.”
Eovaldi went 3-7 with a 4.43 ERA for the Marlins since being traded from the Dodgers on July 25 as part of the Hanley Ramirez deal. For the season, he finished 4-13 with a 4.30 ERA, pitching 119 1/3 innings in 22 overall starts, allowing 54 earned runs with 71 strikeouts.
Needing some runs
Lack of run support — something that hurt Eovaldi both with the Dodgers and Marlins this season — contributed to his large amount of defeats.
Entering Sunday, Eovaldi’s 2.94 runs of support per nine innings since arriving in Miami ranked the second-lowest in the majors behind teammate Josh Johnson’s 2.92. And that followed his 1.44 run-support average with the Dodgers earlier in the season.
Marlins catcher John Buck said the key for Eovaldi has been control early in at-bats.
“He’s been getting ahead and getting strikes. It’s allowed him to get to his secondary pitches and throwing those when he needs them,” Buck said. “You saw that after the first inning, making hitters miss. He’s a lot tougher on hitters when he can do that.’’
Eovaldi walked Jimmy Rollins to start the game and gave up a single to Juan Pierre, who reached second after cleverly avoiding a tag from Donovan Solano. A sacrifice fly brought home Rollins, and later Carlos Ruiz did more damage when he belted a double to left to make it 2-0.
“It was kind of ugly the first inning, but then he survived his problem and he threw well,” Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said. “He pitched good enough for us to win, but you get down three runs in the first with Hamels on the mound, and you have work to do. Those young kids are going to have good outings and bad outings, and we have to deal with that.”
The Marlins managed only one run, which came in the fourth inning, but could have had more. Miami left runners in scoring position in three consecutive innings from the fourth through the sixth.
The fourth was the most frustrating after two runners were thrown out at home, including Giancarlo Stanton to end the inning after Carlos Lee drove in the team’s lone run on a single. Earlier in the inning, Bryan Petersen singled and Jose Reyes doubled to give the Marlins runners on second and third with one out. But Stanton bounced a ball to third baseman Pete Orr, who threw Petersen out at the plate.
Still, Eovaldi felt good about his final three starts of the season, saying he felt he made progress throwing his off-speed pitches better, including a curveball he’s been working on since the start of the season.
“I started working on the curveball to use it as a first-pitch strike,” Eovaldi said. “My last two or three starts, I’ve been striking out a few more guys but I think that’s more because of the mix I’ve been using. Guys are in the hole 0-2 in the count as opposed to me have to fight back into counts.
“My arm feels great and my body feels great right now. I feel I’m ready to come back and keep it going next year.”