Steady rotation key to Yankees' winning streak

Eovaldi, Nova, CC, Tanaka, Pineda led NY to brink of .500 on road swing

Steady rotation key to Yankees' winning streak

NEW YORK -- No one has confused this Yankees rotation with some of the more dominant in franchise history, but their stellar performance during a seven-game road trip has produced the team's longest winning streak of the season, allowing the club to return home just a game under .500 at 21-22.

Beginning with Nathan Eovaldi's effort on Wednesday at Arizona, the Yanks have made up ground in a hurry, executing a turn through the starting five that resulted in the club's first four-game sweep in Oakland since 1979.

"You're not going to be a championship team without a good rotation," Mark Teixeira said. "When those guys step up, they can be as good as anybody, and we've seen that. We've seen every single one of those guys go out there and pitch very well. If they can do that consistently, I like our chances over a long season."

To date, the 2016 Yankees have been defined more by their dominant bullpen trio of Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman than their offense (inconsistent) or their starting pitching (shaky), outside of the majority of Masahiro Tanaka's efforts. Their hope is that it is all evening out.

"I just think some numbers are hard to comprehend," said pitching coach Larry Rothschild, noting the starters' strikeouts (220, seventh in the American League), walks (64, 29th in the Majors) and ground-ball-to-air-out ratio (1.48, best in the AL). "None of it makes any sense to me."

The Yanks play 12 of their next 13 games against AL East clubs, so they are hopeful that the West Coast trip was not an outlier. Here is a look at how the trip came together:

Wednesday, Chase Field: Yankees 4, D-backs 2
The fireballing Eovaldi played the role of stopper after the Yanks dropped the first two games of the series behind Chad Green's Major League debut and a poor outing from Michael Pineda that had Rothschild saying, "We need to end this right now."

Eovaldi held Arizona to one run on one hits through six innings, walking none and striking out five, and he was in good shape with his pitch count, throwing 55 of 85 pitches for strikes, but manager Joe Girardi opted to deploy the bullpen trio for the final nine outs.

"I thought Nathan was a lot better; his split was much better, especially as the game got going," Rothschild said. "His slider was better, and he had some angles on the fastball, which is good to see."

Eovaldi's dominant start

Thursday, Oakland Coliseum: Yankees 4, A's 1
Girardi said that he would call upon Betances, Miller and Chapman "99 percent of the time" if they were rested and ready. That was put to the test as Ivan Nova sparkled, limiting the A's to one run on four hits over six innings.

Nova was in even better pitch-count shape than Eovaldi, having thrown just 62 pitches, but Girardi still opted for "Done BMC." It was a third straight solid start from Nova, who started the year in long relief.

"His sinker's been really, really good, but we need to get the curveball going," Rothschild said. "That's what we've been getting after."

Nova holds A's to one run

Friday, Oakland Coliseum: Yankees 8, A's 3
CC Sabathia returned from a groin strain and picked up right where he left off, hurling 98 pitches over six innings of one-run ball, while limiting the A's to three hits and a walk, striking out eight.

Having improved the touch on a cutter he borrowed from Andy Pettitte to bust in on right-handed hitters, Sabathia has also raised his comfort throwing his sinker, slider and changeup, giving him movement on both sides of the plate.

"He's reinventing himself," catcher Brian McCann said. "He's not throwing 95 [mph] anymore. He's throwing 87-90. He's pitching. He's working the ball in and out, and it's great to see."

Sabathia's one-run outing

Saturday, Oakland Coliseum: Yankees 5, A's 1
Tanaka made it four straight Yanks starts of six or more innings and one run, holding Oakland to a Danny Valencia sacrifice fly in a 92-pitch effort as he picked up his second win.

Tanaka scattered five hits with two walks and four strikeouts, after he had surrendered 10 runs over 12 innings in his previous two outings. Though he is still shying away from his splitter (using it just 13 times), an extra day of rest helped, as did the command of his two-seamer.

"I actually think that the starting rotation is starting to pitch better. For me, for today's game, I was trying to sort of match what the other guys did," Tanaka said through an interpreter.

Tanaka's strong seven innings

Sunday, Oakland Coliseum: Yankees 5, A's 4
It was a happy flight home for the Highlanders, as Rothschild described Pineda as "better" in repeating the angles of his fastball and slider. There was only slight progress out of the stretch position, but he was still able to hold the A's to three runs and six hits over six innings.

"It's a start," Rothschild said. "We just need to consistently pitch well. It's a good place to start."

Though he coughed up a lead, allowing a two-run fifth-inning double to Stephen Vogt, Pineda notched his first victory since April 6 as he walked one and struck out six, throwing 68 of 98 pitches for strikes. Pineda said that this successful turn showed the "heart" of the starting five.

"We said this rotation was really good; the only thing we needed was go to the mound and do our best," Pineda said. "If we do our best every five days, all five starters, we're going to win a lot of games."

Pineda's quality start

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.