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Looking back on Nathan Eovaldi’s greatest Yankees starts

Eovaldi’s injury might mean the end of his Yankees career, so let’s look back on better times.

New York Mets v New York Yankees Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

On Tuesday we learned that Nathan Eovaldi will require two surgeries to repair a completely torn elbow tendon and a partially torn UCL. That figures to end his career in pinstripes and you have to imagine that the Yankees will non-tender Eovaldi in the offseason. This is pretty similar to the Royals’ situation with Greg Holland last year. There’s no way that a team will pay an arbitration increase for a player who is expected to miss the entire year.

It’s been a bumpy ride for Eovaldi since he joined the Yankees. He’s posted a 4.45 ERA and 4.11 FIP since the trade, but in his nearly two years with the team, he’s tossed a handful of gems. There were flashes of brilliance, and we should appreciate the Eovaldi years. To do so, let’s look back on his top five Yankees starts according to game score. Here’s a quick refresher on how game score works. It’s simple enough, now let’s see how it’s treated Eovaldi.

5. May 7th, 2016 versus Boston (box score) (PSA recap)
Pitching Line: 8 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 107 pitches Game Score: 68

For the early part of the 2016 season, the Yankees starting rotation struggled to pitch deep into games. Joe Girardi had to rely on the bullpen frequently. Eovaldi, who is prone to long counts and early exits, gave the backend of the bullpen a night off against Boston, though. He tossed eight innings of two-run ball, and racked up six strikeouts along the way. The first run came on a hit-by-pitch and a seeing-eye single, while the other was a Jackie Bradley Jr. home run. Aside from that, Eovaldi was masterful, painting the black with a 99 mph fastball. Plus, he out-dueled David Price. Nice work, Nate.

4. May 24th, 2016 versus Toronto (box score) (PSA recap) (video)
Pitching Line: 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, 100 pitches Game Score: 70

You could argue that May 2016 was the most dominant month of Eovaldi’s career. After a six run in five innings clunker at Fenway Park on May 1st, he posted a 2.03 ERA over his next five games. This start against the Blue Jays might have been the most important of that stretch. Not only did he top a division rival, but he also brought the Yankees back to .500. Eovaldi’s splitter was dominant, a legitimate swing-and-miss weapon. Look at how he strikes out Edwin Encarnacion with it. I could watch that loop all day.

3. May 18th, 2016 at Arizona (box score) (PSA recap)
Pitching Line: 6 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 85 pitches Game Score: 71

Remember how May 2016 was probably Eovaldi’s best month as a starting pitcher? This was his best start of that month. Jean Segura lead the bottom half of the first off with a double and that was it for the Diamondbacks. Following Segura, Eovaldi retired the next 18 batters he faced. That leadoff double was unconventional, too, as Segura literally hit it off of the second base bag. Eovaldi had no-hit stuff. Too bad that Joe Girardi opted to go straight to the bullpen in the seventh inning despite a reasonable pitch count. Eovaldi was pitching a special game.

2. April 25th, 2016 at Texas (box score) (PSA recap)
Pitching Line: 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, 98 pitches Game Score: 77

I remember this game very clearly because I thought that Eovaldi was actually going to throw a no-hitter. One of the more disappointing moments of the season, and there have been plenty from which to choose, was Nomar Mazara breaking up the no-no in the seventh. Baseball immortality or not, this was peak Eovaldi. His fastball was overpowering and his splitter seemed to drop off the planet. His ten swings-and-misses indicate that his stuff was downright nasty. Not only was this Eovaldi’s best start of the year, but one of the best by any Yankee in 2016.

1. August 24th, 2015 versus Houston (box score) (PSA recap)
Pitching Line: 8 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 7 K, 109 pitches Game Score: 78

Only one 2015 Eovaldi start makes the list, but does it impress. His August 24th masterpiece marks the peak of his Yankees game score mountain. Eovaldi dueled Astros right-hander Scott Feldman in this one, and thanks to some ninth inning dramatics, he walked away the winner. Eovaldi made a name for himself as a flame-thrower, but his offspeed pitches were on full display against Houston. Look at how Jose Altuve flails at Eovaldi’s hook in the first inning. That knee-buckling pitch was aesthetically pleasing. This type of performance was exactly what the Yankees expected when they swung the trade for Eovaldi.

It’s reasonable for Yankees fans to be frustrated with Eovaldi’s tenure in pinstripes. He’s an abundantly talented pitcher whose results don’t match his stuff. But the Eovaldi era wasn’t all bad. He had several memorable moments, flirted with no-hitters on multiple occasions, and flashed utter brilliance. If this is the end of the road for Eovaldi and the Yankees, his high points should be celebrated.

Get well soon, Nate.

Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference