The guy who keeps winning ballgames just delivered his finest start of the season, and of course that’s the one he couldn’t win. Not that Nathan Eovaldi seemed too concerned about his win-loss record tonight. After eight scoreless innings against a pretty explosive and dangerous lineup, Eovaldi seemed to recognize he’d done something pretty special.
“Tonight was the best I’ve felt about an outing,” he said.
Carlos Beltran was the one mobbed on the field, and Andrew Miller got the win, but there was little doubt in the clubhouse who deserved the most credit for this one.
“(Eovaldi) was filthy,” Brian McCann said. “He did whatever he wanted tonight, and that was the game. He came out and pitched an amazing game, and I feel like he’s been pitching like that since the Miami game. It’s been getting better and better. It’s great to watch.”
Since that game in Miami on June 16 – when Eovaldi couldn’t pitch out of the first inning – he’s gone 8-0 with a 2.93 ERA in his past 12 starts. Tonight he showed his usually upper-90s fastball, which still topped out at 100 even in his final inning, but he also had that much-improved splitfinger and a slider that manager Joe Girardi said was the best it had been all season.
“All of his other stuff was really good,” Girardi said. “But now you’re throwing a fourth pitch that can be extremely effective. He got some strikeouts early on in the game. That kind of stood out to me early on.”
Last season, Eovaldi leaned heavily on that slider as his go-to offspeed pitch, but he was mostly a fastball pitcher. He went to the four-seamer 60-70 percent of the time in the past. This year, it’s been more like 45 percent of the time, and the split has become his most-used offspeed pitch.
“Last year I had to rely on my fastball a lot more than this year,” Eovaldi said. “That and my slider, then I’d get behind in counts with my slider. I didn’t have a great feel for my curveball last year, and then I didn’t have the split. This year I’ve been using my curveball a lot better and all my offspeed pitches (have been better), which is helped me out a lot.”
Eovaldi still gives up a plenty of hits, but lately he’s given more distance lately, and his past two games have been two of his three highest strikeout totals of the year. He’s been good for more than two months now, and tonight he was brilliant for a team that needed a lift and wouldn’t have won without that sort of pitching performance.
“Today was a great game,” Beltran said. “I think the player of the game today would have to be Eovaldi. He just pitched an amazing game and he was able to basically chop the opposing team down and allow us to win this one for him, so we’re happy about that.”
• Beltran’s daughters sit near the on-deck circle, and he said they were telling him, “Come on Papi, do it,” before he came to the plate with the bases loaded in the ninth. “In that particular at-bat, I’m just trying to be aggressive, as aggressive as I can,” Beltran said. “Hopefully do what just happened. Try to hit a fly ball deep in the outfield to allow the runner to score.”
• Girardi on Beltran coming through: “It’s a game that we have to win when you have the bases loaded and nobody out. The guy that’s been coming through a lot in the last two or three weeks came up in that spot and got it done.”
• This was Beltran’s 12th career walk-off and his first since June 20 of last year. He extended his hitting streak to eight games with a seventh-inning single.
• Beltran became the only active player to have played 1,000 career games in each league. The only others to have done it are Bob Boone, Vladimir Guerrero, Fred McGriff, Frank Robinson and Dave Winfield.
• That ninth-inning run came with the Yankees getting a hit. Three straight walks, then the sacrifice fly. “We’ve got guys who don’t chase out of the zone,” McCann said. “We’re going to make you throw strikes and we were able to get three walks in the ninth.”
• This was the Yankees’ second shutout of the season. This was their first shutout at Yankee Stadium of the season. This was the team’s fourth walk-off win.
• On the decision to send McCann home on the medium fly ball in the seventh inning. “I think you have to there,” Girardi said. “It’s fairly bang-bang. I did not have a problem with that. I think you have to.”
• McCann reached base four times today and threw out Jake Marisnick trying to steal second in the top of the ninth.
• When Beltran got the winning sac fly, Mark Teixeira was on deck to pinch hit for Greg Bird. Girardi, though, said Teixeira would not have stayed in to play defense had the game gone into extra innings. He was going to bring Brendan Ryan in for defense if the Yankees hadn’t scored in that inning.
• Could Teixiera play against lefty Dallas Keuchel tomorrow? “I’m hopeful,” Girardi said. “We’ll see when he gets here. My hope is that he can play tomorrow.”
• Final word goes to Girardi: “This team has bounced back pretty good all year long. We had a hard time scoring runs over the weekend. We struggled a little bit tonight. Fortunately, we got a great pitched game from our guys tonight. I was curious. This is a good team that we’re facing. They pitch extremely well, they hit the ball out of the ballpark like we do. They run. They play good defense. I knew going in that this was going to be a tough series.”
Associated Press photos