Yanks, Jays going in opposite directions
The team that zoomed past the Yankees last year to the American League East title is moving past them in a different direction this year. The Blue Jays have replaced the Yankees in last place in the division. The Yanks climbed out of the cellar over the weekend in Oakland and have fought back to the .500 mark (22-22) with the 6-0 victory Tuesday night over a Jays team that is not scoring in bunches as it did a year ago.
The Yankees’ stretch of first-rate starting pitching during the six-game winning streak that has pushed them into third place in the AL East continued with Nathan Eovaldi (5-2) shutting out the Blue Jays on two hits in six-plus innings with three walks and five strikeouts in winning his fourth consecutive start and extending his streak of winning decisions to five.
Eovaldi has pitched to a 2.16 ERA over his past four starts and a 2.92 ERA over his past six starts as his season ERA has dropped from 6.11 to 3.95. Relievers Dellin Betances, Kirby Yates and Luis Cessa held Toronto hitless over the final three innings. During the winning streak, Yankees pitchers have a 1.67 ERA in 54 innings. Opponents are batting only .148 in 189 at-bats off Yankees pitching in the past six games.
Eovaldi ran his streak of consecutive batters retired to 22 before Troy Tulowitzki’s one-out single in the second inning. The righthander also retired 12 batters in a row from the first out in the third through the final out of the sixth. Since allowing a leadoff double in the first inning May 18 at Phoenix, Eovaldi has set down 36 of 41 batters faced.
The Yankees’ offense could not be slowed down even in the throes of having to face a knuckleballer. They jumped on R.A. Dickey (2-6) early with a run in the first inning. As it turned out, that was all the scoring they needed.
Toronto right fielder Jose Bautista, the most powerful leadoff hitter in the major leagues, helped the Yankees to that run in the first with a poor decision to dive for a Jacoby Ellsbury line drive that ended up rolling to the wall for a leadoff triple. A walk and a strikeout later, Carlos Beltran beat out a play at first to avoid being doubled up as Ellsbury scored.
Beltran, the Yankees’ hottest hitter of late, got a more legitimate RBI in the fourth with his 10th home run. He also walked and scored in the Yankees’ two-run eighth inning on a sacrifice fly by Chase Headley. Didi Gregorius singled in the second run.
Dickey was gone by then. He was chased in the seventh after giving up an RBI double to Austin Romine. Ellsbury greeted reliever Joe Biagini with a run-scoring single.
Beltran started off the brief homestand as well as he finished off the two-city trip in which he batted .407 with three runs, five doubles, one homer and nine RBI in seven games and 27 at-bats. In nine games since May 15, Beltran has hit .394 with seven runs, five doubles, three home runs and 14 RBI in 33 at-bats.