Mark Teixeira’s absence has done nothing to slow the New York Yankees’ offense. In fact, it seems to have provided a spark.
Nathan Eovaldi has taken full advantage of the added run support and will look to help the Yankees win for the seventh time in eight games when he faces the visiting Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday.
The Yankees (75-58) have averaged 8.9 runs in their last seven since Teixeira – the club’s leader with 31 homers – was sidelined by a bone bruise on his right shin.
Greg Bird, who has been filling in for Teixeira at first base, hit a two-run homer for the second straight game Friday, and Alex Rodriguez hit his 27th of the season in a 5-2 win over the Rays (66-68).
Brian McCann also homered for the wild card-leading Yankees, who pulled within one-half game of Toronto for the AL East lead. New York’s only other hit was an infield single from Brett Gardner in the eighth.
"We need to hit the ball out of the ballpark and we did," manager Joe Girardi said.
The Yankees have scored often with Eovaldi (14-2, 4.17 ERA) on the mound, especially recently. He wasn’t very sharp Sunday, allowing five runs in five-plus innings against Atlanta, but he still was credited with a 20-6 victory that extended his unbeaten streak to 13 starts. The right-hander is 9-0 with a 3.32 ERA and a major league-high 7.89 run-support average in that stretch.
"Any time you get a lead, you want to try to go after the hitters as much as possible," Eovaldi said. "You try to pitch like it’s a 0-0 ballgame all the time. It’s a good feeling, getting a lot of run support."
The Yankees didn’t have enough to back him against the Rays on May 12. Eovaldi gave up four runs in 7 1-3 innings of a 4-2 loss. Tampa Bay has dropped three of the last four meetings, though, despite Evan Longoria’s homer that followed the two he hit in Wednesday’s defeat at Baltimore.
James Loney had two of the nine hits for the Rays, who still have three teams in front of them for the AL’s final playoff spot.
"We got the hits but couldn’t get anything across," manager Kevin Cash said.
Matt Moore (1-3, 8.78) looks to help get Tampa Bay back on track as he takes a major league mound for the first time in over a month. Moore made six starts after he returned July 2 following his recovery from Tommy John surgery, but after losing his last three with a 10.66 ERA, the Rays sent him to the minors following his last outing Aug. 1.
The left-hander went 2-1 with a 3.30 ERA in five starts and showed enough to earn a spot back in the Rays’ rotation. He’ll replace Nathan Karns, who has been reassigned to the bullpen.
"He went down, he did what was needed, what was asked," Cash told MLB’s official website. "We decided, given the matchup coming up against the Yankees, all the lefties, all the switch-hitters, the short porch in right – figured we’d take a crack at it with a left-handed pitcher."
Lefties are hitting .306 off Moore this season, but it’s unclear if he’ll have to face Jacoby Ellsbury after he left Friday’s game after the fourth inning with a stomach issue.