DETROIT - On Monday night the Yankees witnessed the CC Sabathia of the past, a throwback performance from their former ace. On Tuesday night they saw what they hope is their future with Nathan Eovaldi.
The 25-year-old's powerful right arm had the Yankees dreaming big when they acquired him in the offseason from the Marlins. Eovaldi turned in a terrific effort in a 5-2 win over the Tigers on a blustery, 45-degree night at Comerica Park.
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"Their lineup is stacked,'' said Chris Young, who went 3-for-3 with a homer and two walks. "I can't think of too many lineups up and down as strong as they are. For him to keep them off balance and pitch the way he did today, that kind of lets you know what his ceiling is.''
Eovaldi (1-0, 3.12), in his first win as a Yankee, threw six shutout innings before allowing a run in the seventh that made it 4-1. Combining his mid- to high-90s fastball with biting breaking stuff, Eovaldi allowed one run, eight hits and one walk, with four strikeouts.
"We worked on changing my arm path a little bit, and for the majority of the night I was able to do that,'' said Eovaldi, who said the mechanical tweak aided his command.
Eovaldi, with an especially good slider, induced the Tigers (11-3) to hit into four double plays. He also was backed by two home runs that gave the Yankees (7-7) an MLB-best 20.
"Defense was awesome tonight, we scored early and the bullpen came through at the end,'' Eovaldi said. "I was able to command the ball, I was moving it inside and out. I was able to make the big pitches when I needed to.''
It got a bit dicey in the ninth. After Chris Martin retired the first two hitters, the Tigers loaded the bases. Andrew Miller's second walk forced in a run, but he struck out Jose Iglesias for his fifth save in five chances.
"At the end of the day, it's a win,'' Miller said. "It wasn't pretty on my part, but thankfully Nate pitched his tail off and Dellin [Betances] came in and backed him up."
Mark Teixeira doubled in the first for a 1-0 lead, and homers by Young, his fourth, and Stephen Drew, also his fourth, highlighted a three-run seventh that made it 4-0.
Young, a pleasant surprise early on, got the start in right over the slumping Carlos Beltran. "He's playing so well for us,'' Joe Girardi said of Young. "So I'll find a spot for him somewhere tomorrow.''
Betances came in after Alex Avila's leadoff double in the eighth and struck out two of three batters.
The Yankees tacked on a run in the ninth when third baseman Nick Castellanos couldn't handle Brian McCann's ground shot. The error allowed Brett Gardner to score to make it 5-1. Gardner singled to lead off the inning and tagged on Alex Rodriguez's long flyout to left-center. A-Rod stayed stuck at 658 homers, going 0-for-3 with two walks.
The night, however, was primarily about Eovaldi, who entered the season 15-35 lifetime but with, as Young said, what looks to be a fairly high ceiling.
"He's got great stuff, No. 1, and No. 2, he's young,'' Girardi said. "It takes starting pitchers time to develop. He does a lot of things right. With the quality stuff he has, I think he has a chance of being really successful.''