Split the difference: Eovaldi's arsenal honed
NEW YORK -- When the Yankees acquired Nathan Eovaldi in December, they saw potential in the young right-hander despite a losing season in Miami, during which he led the National League in hits allowed. The Yankees were looking for another piece to add to their rotation, and Eovaldi seemed like the right fit.
Admittedly, Eovaldi came to New York as a pitcher who relied heavily on his fastball and struggled with his curveball at times. But after the Yankees beat the Astros, 1-0, on Monday night behind his eight-inning effort, Eovaldi is continuing to discover how dominant he can be. He hasn't lost since June 16 and boasts an 8-0 record with a 2.93 ERA over his last 12 starts.
With a 13-2 record this season, Eovaldi has more than doubled his season win output from last year and has the highest winning percentage among Major League pitchers with at least 12 decisions. Asked for the reason behind so much success as of late, Eovaldi gave a simple answer.
"Just being able to use the [split-finger fastball], I feel like it's helped me out a lot," he said. "At the beginning of the season, I didn't have as much confidence in it as I do now. I feel like I'm able to locate it when I'm behind in counts, which is pretty big for me."
The splitter was a new addition to Eovaldi's arsenal; he began experimenting with it in his final two starts for Miami, at the suggestion of pitching coach Chuck Hernandez. With the Yankees, Eovaldi has fine-tuned it into a legitimate weapon that can be a difference-maker.
"It's been the development of his split, to me. His ability to throw his curveball for strikes, the location of his fastball," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He's learned to pitch in. Those are probably the three biggest things ... I think the split has been really big for him."
Over eight innings Monday night, Eovaldi threw 109 pitches, 71 for strikes. He struck out seven, gave up no runs and allowed four hits.
Brian McCann said he has seen a noticeable difference in Eovaldi since his June 16 start in Miami, in which he was knocked around for nine hits and eight earned runs in two-thirds of an inning against his former club. In his eyes, the split has been a big piece of that puzzle.
"It's a game-changer. It gets him off his other pitches. He locates well," McCann said. "He elevates when he needs to. It's changed the way he pitches, and he's only going to get better and better."
But while the split certainly had the Yankees talking Monday, Girardi made sure to pay credit to Eovaldi's slider, as well.
"It might have been the best slider he's had all year," Girardi said. "All of his other stuff was really good, but now you're throwing a fourth pitch that can be extremely effective."
Eovaldi's ability to give the Yanks eight innings came at a crucial time. The bullpen was taxed Sunday with CC Sabathia exiting after 2 2/3 innings with right knee pain.
On Monday, Eovaldi seemed more confident than ever before this season.
"Tonight was the best I've felt about an outing," he said. "So it's good moving forward."