Coming into tonight, Nathan Eovaldi had faced the Yankees five times this season, striking out 34, walking 2, and posting a 2.01 ERA. If it had felt like Eovaldi was personally strangling New York’s playoff hopes, well, you wouldn’t be that far off. Tonight, though, the Yankees made the right adjustments, chasing him before the end of the third on the way to an 8-3 series-opening win.
Eovaldi really didn’t fool anyone, as no Yankee whiffed on a swing until Anthony Rizzo’s second at-bat of the game in the third inning. That at-bat ended a pitch later on a double off the Green Monster, but we’ll get to that in a minute. We have to start with the three runs the Yankees put up in the first inning.
Singles from DJ LeMahieu and Anthony Rizzo set up Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton for an RBI each, on a double to center and a groundout respectively. Gleyber Torres brought in Judge with a single of his own to make it 3-0, and the Yankees gifted Gerrit Cole a multi-run lead before he even took the field.
Then, the Yanks broke it open in the third inning. Rizzo swung and missed, then doubled to left. Judge walked, bringing up Stanton:
Now, when Stanton hit that, I thought it was a deep single that would bring in a run. Instead the ball just kept carrying, all the way into the dugout. There are lots of premium power hitters in baseball, but there’s nobody I can think of that just hits those carrying line drives like Stanton can. The home run put the Yankees up 6-0, and a lucky popup went the Yankees’ way for the lucky seventh:
One of my favorite things to do when watching baseball is track balls in play using Statcast, and seeing what xBA is assigned to a given ball. That popup was one of the few that Hawkeye just gave up on, with no xBA at all, but the runs all count the same, and the game was 7-0.
The Yankees put their hunting shoes on tonight, aggressive on Eovaldi’s pitches in the zone. They took only five strikes all game, three of them in the shadow zone, the area around home plate where pitches are called strikes about 50% of the time. Being passive on pitches in the strike zone has been a problem the club’s dealt with all season — tonight, they went right after Nate’s offerings, and the results speak for themselves.
Gerrit Cole had himself a pretty lackluster start. He had just three whiffs on his fastball, five strikeouts against three walks, and while he got some double play luck, those walks meant he didn’t have a single clean inning. Rafael Devers finally tagged him for a three-run bomb in the sixth, but it was clear from the first batter — a five-pitch walk — that Cole wasn’t his Ace self.
You can see how many of his fastballs were stuck around the middle of the plate, rather than up at the letters. Not all of those heaters were hits, and the home run he allowed was on a bad changeup, but you’re just not going to get a tonne of swings and misses with fastballs there. Foul balls extend at-bats and drive up pitch counts, and that was a big part of Cole’s issues today.
Gleyber Torres chipped in with his second big hit of the night:
Clay Holmes, Wandy Peralta and Chad Green combined to hold the Sox to zeroes in relief. Only needing three arms leaves some of the other trusted guys — Lucas Luetge and Mike King, to name just a pair — ready for the rest of this series. A win tomorrow would be exactly what the team needed to do coming into Boston, and they’ll ask Nasty Néstor Cortes Jr. to deliver that, with first pitch coming at 4:10pm Eastern.