Efficient Eovaldi brings the heat vs. Red Sox

Yankees right-hander hits triple digits several times during eight-inning outing

Efficient Eovaldi brings the heat vs. Red Sox

NEW YORK -- By his estimation, Nathan Eovaldi pitches his best when he is able to locate his fastball.

In the Yankees' 8-2 win Saturday afternoon over the Red Sox, the flamethrower proved his point.

Eovaldi allowed just six hits and two runs over eight stellar innings, striking out six and walking none, needing just 107 pitches to do so. Eovaldi was efficient with those pitches, too, throwing 72 percent of them for strikes. Sixty-five of the pitches he threw were fastballs, and he located 47 of those for strikes and topped 100 mph five times.

The right-hander maintained that his success stemmed from a logical connection: When his mechanics feel good, he's able to locate his fastball better. When he locates his fastball better, he throws fewer pitches out of the zone. And fewer pitches out of the zone equal fewer pitches per out, especially when your stuff is as electric as Eovaldi's was Saturday.

"I thought the biggest key for me today was just locating the fastball," he said. "And when I'm able to locate it inside and outside and do that, I feel like I'm able to get a lot more quicker outs."

Saturday was the first time that Eovaldi lasted eight innings in a start since Aug. 24, 2015. Yankees manager Joe Girardi said after the game that he couldn't have asked any more of Eovaldi than the performance he turned in. 

The bullpen in a lot of ways has been the battery that has charged the Yankees when they've been successful this season. But the battery wasn't fully charged Saturday, as both closer Andrew Miller and setup man Dellin Betances were unavailable; Betances had pitched the previous three days, and Miller threw 36 pitches to save Friday's contest.

With the big bullpen arms shut down, Eovaldi's task Saturday was to give the Yankees distance. And Eovaldi did just that. Nick Goody's 12-pitch ninth inning represented the only bullpen usage of the day, resting not just the prominent names, but almost the entire 'pen for Sunday night's series finale.

Girardi and catcher Austin Romine both said that Eovaldi didn't need to be told how important this start was. And in Girardi's mind, the importance of the start probably didn't change Eovaldi's outlook anyway.

"I don't think a pitcher ever says, 'Let me go six innings, then I'll turn it over to the bullpen,'" Girardi said. "Evo probably wanted to go nine."

The manager wasn't wrong about that assessment. Eovaldi said he felt comfortable enough to pitch the ninth inning despite his escalating pitch count, but said he isn't the kind of pitcher to plead for the final frame.

But Eovaldi certainly wasn't showing signs of fatigue: He threw 97 mph or faster five times in his last inning of work.

Nick Suss is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.