Rays' Eovaldi stellar in return from Tommy John surgery
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Even though he knew it was the best move to make, Tampa Bay right-hander Nathan Eovaldi was not happy when Kevin Cash pulled him after six innings. He even had to be prodded to shake his manager's hand.
Coming off a second Tommy John surgery, Eovaldi understood why. He just didn't like it at the time.
Eovaldi pitched six innings of no-hit ball in his return to the majors, leading the Rays to a 6-0 victory over the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday night.
"I didn't want to shake his hand," Eovaldi said. "I haven't gone seven innings in a really long time. So we played it safe and it was good. I would have liked to stay out there until I gave up a hit but I understand the situation as well."
Eovaldi (1-0) routinely clocked in the high 90s with his fastball and faced one over the minimum through six innings in his Tampa Bay debut. He threw 70 pitches and had four strikeouts. The only runner to reach base against him was Matt Chapman, who drew a one-out walk in the first.
Cash said he debated sending Eovaldi out for the seventh.
"It was tough, there was no doubt, but we have to do what's right by him," Cash said. "He wanted to stay but realistically he's not getting to the ninth inning. I'll just blame (pitching coach Kyle Snyder). I wanted to keep pitching him but Kyle told me to pull him."
Wilmer Font, acquired by the Rays from the A's last Friday, gave up Jed Lowrie's one-out single in the seventh for Oakland's only hit of the game. Vidal Nuno got the last three outs to finish the one-hitter.
Rob Refsnyder hit a three-run home run off A's starter Sean Manaea (5-6), and Johnny Field also homered for the Rays.
The game drew an announced crowd of 6,295, the smallest at the Coliseum since April 3, 2003.
Eovaldi last pitched in the majors on Aug. 10, 2016, for the Yankees. Nine days later, he underwent a second elbow surgery. Eovaldi also had Tommy John surgery in 2007 when he was a junior in high school.
The 28-year-old missed the first month of this season after undergoing surgery March 30 to remove loose bodies in his elbow. Eovaldi made four rehab starts in the minors before being activated off the disabled list before Wednesday's game.
"It felt great being out there," Eovaldi said. "I was so focused on just getting that first out. After I got it, the emotions kind of got to me. I was a little nervous out there. Then I was able to regroup and slow back down."
Eovaldi, the 12th pitcher in major league history to start in the majors after having two Tommy John surgeries, induced seven groundouts and retired the final 17 batters he faced following the walk to Chapman.
"I think we pushed him about as much as we wanted to," Cash said.
Font then came in and retired Chapman on a liner to shortstop in the seventh before Lowrie pushed a single up the middle.
Nuno replaced Font in the ninth and gave up a leadoff walk to Chad Pinder, then retired the next three batters.
That was all the offense the A's could muster while being shut out by the Rays for the second time in three games.
"Honestly, those guys over there, they're pitching great," Oakland shortstop Chad Pinder said. "Those guys aren't a walk in the park, and they're locating and they're making all their pitches work. Hitting's hard enough as it is."
Oakland went into the game batting .216 in May, the second-lowest average in the majors.
Manaea allowed four runs in five innings. After going 4-1 with 1.00 ERA through his first six starts that included the majors' first no-hitter this season on Apri 21, the big left-hander has been in a tailspin.
Athletics: INF Marcus Semien was placed on the paternity leave list before the game. Pinder started at shortstop in Semien's absence. RHP Josh Lucas was called up from Triple-A Nashville. ... RHP Liam Hendriks began a rehab assignment with Triple-A Nashville.
Tampa Bay RHP Ryne Stanek (1-0, 3.24 ERA) will make his second career start, three days after getting a win coming out of the bullpen. RHP Daniel Mengden (5-4, 2.85) goes for Oakland.