#NastyNate was created and trended on Twitter for a good reason. Tonight’s starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi was throwing some rather wicked pitches against the Tigers in game 2 of their 4-game series against Detroit this week. With temperatures dipping below 50 and a steadily increasing rain, nothing seemed to faze Eovaldi as he zeroed in on what is often considered one of the best batting rosters in all of baseball. Overall, Eovaldi threw 94 pitches over 7 innings (and 1 batter in the 8th), giving up 8 hits, 1 walk, 1 run, and 4 strikeouts. His lone allowed run came in the 7th inning when a runner on base with a double advanced on a wild pitch and then scored on a sacrifice fly.
What was really outstanding, however, is the ridiculous amount of double plays Eovaldi induced — a grand total of 4. By the way, most games are lucky to get 1. This defense, who were not the regular defensive starters (save Teixeira at 1st), are just really good. In total so far for this series in Detroit, the Yankees have 7 total double plays. But what makes it sweeter is that it’s some of the Tigers’ best hitters (including the reigning 2-time MVP champ) that keep hitting into these double plays. (3 of the 4 media links: 2nd, 4th, and 6th inning DPs)
Dellin Betances took over for Eovaldi in the 8th inning, throwing just 10 pitches to get out of the inning, including 2 strikeouts. Chris Martin came on for the 9th, but after 2 quick strikeouts, he found himself in a jam and was replaced by Andrew Miller, the de facto closer. But Miller wasn’t as sharp as he has been recently. He walked 2 batters, allowing the lead runner to walk in and score a run before finally getting that strikeout. (Though there was a bit of a debate as to whether the first batter actually walked or struck out, but we don’t argue balls and strikes with umpires anymore.)
Now, the Yankees seem to like hitting in Comerica Park. And even though the Tigers technically out-hit the Yankees tonight (10 total hits vs. the Yankees’ 8), the Yankees made more of their hits. They started it off on a good foot in the 1st inning — Gardner walked and then scored on Mark Teixeira’s double. They sat on that 1-0 lead for the next 6 innings.
Let’s just say that the 7th inning was probably the one inning the Tigers’ bullpen will want to forget. Look, the Tigers have one of the best starting pitching rotations in the AL, but they don’t spend money on the bullpen and it shows in situations like the 7th inning tonight. The starter left after the 6th inning, which meant the bullpen was open and hitting season was open for the Yankees. Chris Young led off with a home run to left field, and after a pop out, Stephen Drew hit his own home run to right field.
A new pitcher from the bullpen was called in and got a quick ground out before walking Ellsbury, who quickly stole 2nd base. I should also note it is at this point that most of the fans were running for cover as the slight drizzle became sideways rain; but alas, we play on. Gardner singled, sending Ellsbury to 3rd.
A new Tigers pitcher saw Gardner quickly steal 2nd and now had both runners in scoring position. A wild pitch scored Ellsbury, moving Gardner to 3rd before Rodriguez walked. After this pitcher walked Teixeira to load the bases, it was time for a new Tigers pitcher who finally got that 3rd out. But in that inning alone, the Tigers bullpen used 4 pitchers and 41 total pitches for 9 Yankees batters.
And in the 9th, Gardner on 2nd after his single and a fly out, and 2 outs on the board, McCann reached on a debatable fielding error and scored Gardner. I say “debatable” because the official scorer called it an error, but there was some disagreement beyond that as to whether it was really an error or an RBI single. I say (at least in public), who cares — the Yankees got another run in. As usual, official scoring wins the day. That is unless MLB HQ overturns the original ruling and adjusts the stats for McCann and that position player.
Final score: 5-2 Yankees.
After that final strikeout from Miller, the Yankees found themselves back to average statistically. Not that any of that matters right now. Some of the talking heads were discussing the oddities of the stats right now because we’re so early in the season — batters hitting either really low (like .100s) or really high (.500s) and pitchers with odd ERAs (like 0.4 — as if you can give up half a run). I never pay attention to statistics until it’s closer to the All-Star Game because that when things kind of fall into place on how the rest of the season will pan out. Of course, there are the exceptions and the Hollywood endings.
But in the end, it doesn’t matter how you got there — it matters only that you got there and won. Every championship team has a different journey, but they share one common factor — they won the championship. We see this in the regular season too. You can win by 3 runs or 30 runs, but it still only counts as 1 win. At the end of the season, you can beat your division rivals by 1 win or 100 wins, but it’s still whoever has the most wins that is the Division Champion. Numbers are funny things, and statistics prove that every day in baseball.
I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again — you can’t measure the intangibles — the instincts, the heart, the class, the teamwork, the integrity, the stamina, the strategy, the method, the timing, sometimes just the zing that just makes all of the numbers nonexistent and all the hard work cohesive. More often than not, that is what’s behind the numbers. And that is what makes the difference between just a win and a championship.