NEW YORK — One way to silence 49,000-plus Yankees fans at Yankee Stadium is to pile on the runs against a staff ace with a blazing fastball.
Another is to send out your own right-hander with a blazing fastball and have him shut down the high-powered Yankees offense that set a single-season record for home runs.
Nathan Eovaldi gave the Boston Red Sox their best postseason start since Jon Lester in Game 5 of the 2013 World Series, allowing just one run in seven innings Monday with an efficient 97 pitches as the Red Sox embarrassed the Yankees 16-1 to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five American League Division Series.
Eovaldi came over from the Tampa Bay Rays on July 25 for minor league pitcher Jalen Beeks and went 3-3 with a 3.33 ERA for the Red Sox over 12 appearances (11 starts). His average fastball velocity for the season ranked third in the majors among pitchers with at least 100 innings, trailing only Yankees ace Luis Severino and Mets righty Noah Syndergaard. Eovaldi also possesses a devastating cutter with sliderlike action. When he’s on and locating his fastball, he can be tough to hit.
He was on against the Yankees on Monday, continuing a good run of success against them. In three appearances against the Yankees with the Red Sox in August and September, the 28-year-old had allowed just one run and six hits over 16 innings.
Eovaldi, who pitched for the Yankees in 2015 and 2016, said he wasn’t daunted by pitching in front of a rabid Yankee Stadium crowd, but also added it wasn’t easy.
“It was tough. Warming up before the game, the crowd was pretty relentless down there in the bullpen area,” he said. “I think once you get going and you get that first pitch out of the way, you’re able to settle down and it’s just another game. You go out there and you try and attack the hitters.”
Eovaldi did just that, throwing first-pitch strikes to 21 of the 26 batters he faced.
After Severino threw a scoreless top of the first, Eovaldi came out throwing smoke. In a nine-pitch battle against Aaron Judge, he hit 100 mph three times, with Judge finally lining out to right field off a 101 mph fastball. He then blew away Luke Voit swinging on a 100 mph heater. All told, Eovaldi saw 11 pitches register 100 mph — including his final pitch of the outing, which Gleyber Torres grounded out on.
The only damage against came in the fourth, and that was only after Voit reached on an infield single that glanced off Eovaldi’s glove. Giancarlo Stanton followed with a hard base hit, but Eovaldi worked out of trouble with a fielder’s choice, a whiff of Gary Sanchez and another grounder.
Manager Alex Cora praised Eovaldi for not being intimidated on the big stage.
“It was unbelievable before the game and the first few innings, and he was just being Nate,” Cora said. “Pitching in Tampa or pitching in Fenway or pitching in Yankee Stadium, he knows his stuff is good, and it’s just about executing, throwing strikes, and letting the defense do the job.”
Cora mentioned before the game that Eovaldi could be Boston’s answer to Charlie Morton, a less-heralded member of the Houston staff who helped the Astros win the World Series last season when Cora was the bench coach.
“I was telling somebody earlier in the clubhouse that hopefully he’s our Charlie Morton this year,” Cora said. “He’s in the spotlight and people can see how good he is. Hopefully, that happens and he can carry us.”
It was a much-needed effort following David Price’s short outing in Game 2 when he lasted just 1? innings, helping to save the bullpen for Tuesday’s Game 4 and a potential Game 5 on Thursday. Since Lester’s start in the World Series, Red Sox starters had made 10 postseason starts and none of them made it through seven innings. In those 10 starts between Lester and Eovaldi, the starters posted an 8.35 ERA, 1.96 WHIP and averaged a mere 3? innings per outing.
Now Eovaldi has put the Red Sox on the brink of a series victory. He’s also setting himself for a very nice payday: He’s a free agent after the season.