I've watched Nathan Eovaldi's last 2 starts and I have to say, I think something's happening here. I think he's starting to put it together and when he puts it all together I think he's going to be really good. I mean it. If you've watched his last 2 starts and you don't realize this and believe it, you're not watching closely enough. Eovaldi has suddenly become the ace and the stopper of this pitching staff and last night he was the reason the Yankees managed to scratch out a 1-0 win.
A free-swinging team that isn't afraid to strike out should have been a perfect matchup for Eovaldi if he was on, and they proved to be that perfect immediately. Eovaldi struck out the side in the top of the 1st, fanned 2 more in the 2nd, and rattled off 8 straight outs to get through the 4th scoreless. He did have to work around 2 singles in the 2nd and 2 walks in the 5th, but his stuff was top notch again and he made a lot of big pitches to get outs when he needed them. 100+ fastball, low 90s splitter, and a sharp mid-80s slider. Eovaldi was featuring it all and throwing up zeros on the scoreboard.
He had to throw a few more pitches in the 5th because of the walk, and the game really became a grind for him in the 6th. Carlos Correa, who is an absolute stud ballplayer, singled to lead off the inning and Colby Rasmus worked a 5-pitch walk to put 2 on and nobody out. Carlos Gomez sac bunted them over to put both in scoring position, but Rasmus strayed too far off second on Evan Gattis' grounder in the next at-bat and Greg Bird astutely threw behind him to get the out at second. Run didn't score and Eovaldi got Luis Valbuena to fly out to center to end the threat.
From there, everything was back on track for Nasty Nate. He sat the Astros down 1-2-3 in the 7th and worked around a Chase Headley 1-out throwing error in the 8th by getting Rasmus and Gomez to fly out. During the Gomez at-bat he was firing in 100-MPH fastballs. Just awesome.
I'd talk more about the Yankee offense except there really wasn't much to talk about. They wasted the best scoring chance they did get against Houston starter Scott Feldman - 2 on, no outs in the bottom of the 3rd with the top of lineup coming up - and didn't generate many more in his 8 innings of shutout ball to match Eovaldi. It wasn't until Feldman left and Oliver Perez entered in the 9th that the Yankees finally scored and even that had little to do with their bats. Perez walked the bases loaded on 15 pitches, and on the first pitch of the next at-bat Carlos Beltran laced a walk-off sac fly to deep center. It wasn't aesthetically pleasing if you like high-scoring games, but it's another win and that's all that matters.
- Back to Eovaldi. Only gave up 4 hits in 8 innings, which is very unlike the version of him we've seen for most of the season. Now that he's locating his fastball better on the outer parts and edges of the strike zone and mastering the splitter for a consistent swing-and-miss pitch, he's really cut down on his hittability. Also got 19 swinging strikes on the night, his new season high. In fact his 2 highest whiff outputs of the year have come in his last 2 starts.
- Solid night at the plate for Brian McCann. Singled to start the inning 3 different times and drew the third walk against Perez to load the bases. He got thrown out at home to end the 7th trying to score on a Chase Headley lineout, on a ball that was not well thrown by Gomez, and looked really bad trying to run. So maybe he's more hurt than he's letting on and maybe he's not. What the hell do I know?
- The Yanks only had 3 more hits as a team last night. The top of the order (Ellsbury, Gardner, A-Rod) combined to go 0-10 with a pair of walks, 3 strikeouts, and 6 LOB.
- Stephen Drew singled his first time up last night, briefly bringing himself up to a .200 batting average. He finished the game 1-3, however, and ended back at .199.
- Andrew Miller pitched a scoreless 9th to pick up the win. He struck out 2 more and was hitting 96-97 on the gun. Either that thing is way hot or he's finally getting back to his pre-injury self. FWIW, he's thrown 5.1 scoreless innings with 9 Ks since 8/13.