ARLINGTON -- Few throw harder than the Yankees' Nathan Eovaldi, but it takes more than a 97-mph fastball to get Major Leaguers out one after another. In Monday night's 3-1 win over the Rangers, he had much more than just the heater.Relying on an array of effective pitches -- including
ARLINGTON -- Few throw harder than the Yankees' Nathan Eovaldi, but it takes more than a 97-mph fastball to get Major Leaguers out one after another. In Monday night's 3-1 win over the Rangers, he had much more than just the heater.
Relying on an array of effective pitches -- including a slider, a splitter, a changeup and the occasional slow curve -- Eovaldi overmatched the Rangers from the beginning. He flirted with a no-hitter through six innings before finally allowing a hit to Nomar Mazara to lead off the seventh. Eovaldi struck out six, gave up two hits, walked two and threw 98 pitches in his seven-plus-inning outing.
"At the beginning of the game, I felt good, my fastball command felt good, I was able to get quick outs that way, and then as that progressed during the game, I started falling behind a few batters but I was able to come back with the slider and split and get back into counts," said Eovaldi, who notched his first victory of the season after earning losses in each of his last two starts. "I feel like I've progressed from each outing, and it was just nice for everything to come together for this one."
A native of Alvin, Texas -- the same Houston-area town that produced Nolan Ryan -- Eovaldi has a flamethrower arm that is his best-known asset. This year he averaged 97 mph on his fastball through his first three starts, the second-highest speed in the Majors among pitchers with at least 15 innings pitched, behind Noah Syndergaard's 97.7. Last season, Eovaldi's fastball averaged 96.7 mph, also the second-highest among pitchers with at least 150 innings, also behind the Mets' Syndergaard.
When Eovaldi supplements that elite fastball with strong secondary pitches, he can be nearly unhittable, as he showed on Monday night. He found a groove in the third inning, getting the first two outs on strikeouts, then struck out three consecutive hitters spanning the fourth and fifth innings.
"You can tell how good a guy is and how good his stuff is by the reaction of the hitters," first baseman Mark Teixeira said. "They're swinging at pitches in the dirt, they're swinging at pitches over their heads, because it's just an uncomfortable at-bat. He's got No. 1 stuff. I think that's one thing that we've all seen. A guy that throws 97 to 100 miles an hour with a good splitter, a good curveball -- that's No. 1 stuff. He showed it tonight."
Neither of the hits Eovaldi gave up were perfectly struck. Mazara's grounder sneaked through the left side against a shift, and Prince Fielder's double later that inning just got over the glove of right fielder Dustin Ackley.
"You always have to catch a couple of breaks to throw a no-hitter," manager Joe Girardi said. "He got a ground ball, and the kid did a good job of shooting it in the hole, so it didn't work out. His pitch count was OK at that point, his stuff was still good -- you always like to think that there's a chance, but it wasn't meant to be."
Dave Sessions is a contributor to MLB.com based in Arlington.