Bronx, N.Y., August 19, 2015; Yankees 4, Twins 3 — Before Wednesday afternoon, the last 4-3 win I saw on a pair of two-run home runs from the same guy took place 46 years ago, but aside from the home city of the winning club and that description of the offense, the two had very little in common, except that each was a big “late”-season win in a unique season. The Yankees continued to surprise Wednesday afternoon, as first baseman Greg Bird, one of the family jewels they refused to part with in a trade, supplied the power the team has been receiving from veteran hitters all year.
In September 1969, Mets outfielder Ron Swoboda homered for all four runs off to-be Hall of Famer Steve Carlton, himself having a game for the ages with 19 strike outs. But although righthander Ervin Santana threw a very good game in the stadium, it was Yankee Nate Eovaldi who flirted with history on the pitching side this afternoon. Mixing 101 mph heat with a devastating change of pace, he struck out the side in the second among six early whiffs, and pitched perfect baseball for five innings.
By then the only concern was his 71-pitch count, because after placing men on base in each of the first three frames, the Yanks broke through for what felt like a comfortable lead on Bird’s first home run in the fourth. Carlos Beltran reached on a two-out single, and on an 0-1 Santana offering, the young lefty slugger lifted a high fly deep to the second deck in right. Nothing came of a following Chase Headley double, but all was good.
It’s not possible to pick where Eovaldi’s sixth inning went south. The crowd tensed as he fell behind shortstop Eduardo Escobar 3-0 leading off, but the next three were strikes as Escobar became out No. 16 and strike out No. 7. Surely, the opposite-field 0-1 humpback liner that catcher Chris Herrmann lofted over Headley at third that broke up the perfecto and the no-no wasn’t well struck. Shane Robinson singled in the hole, again not sharply, and Headley made a great barehanded grab and throw to retire Aaron Hicks for the second out.
Nate got ahead of Brian Dozier, but issued him his first walk, and Joe Mauer — who had yet to do much this series — came through with a game-tying single. A walk loaded the bases, and when Trevor Plouffe topped a ball toward third, it died on the turf as Minnesota took a 3-2 lead.
The inning cost Eovaldi four hits, two walks, three runs, and 34 pitches, driving him to 105 throws, but his day was not over. The Yanks had gone down in order in the fifth, and Santana, rolling on just 64 pitches with two out in the sixth, walked Beltran on six pitches. The Bird is the word and — again on the second pitch — the rookie first sacker delivered his second big league home run in two innings, and five games, this one a hard liner into the Yankee bullpen. Headley, who would reach safely again, waited to bat as Bird finally bent to the will of the 38,000 paid and took a short curtain call.
Eovaldi answered the call for the seventh and gave Joe Girardi the inning he needed, 15 pitches for 120 on the day, featuring a sinking liner Jacoby Ellsbury made a nice grab on, and an eighth strike out. In the eighth, Chasen Shreve pitched around a Mauer infield single, striking out two, as did “Marshal Dellin” Betances, in for the save in the ninth. An Escobar popup to Headley closed a fine game in a crisp 2:34.
Eovaldi threw six perfect innings, compiling an impressive 83/37 strikes/balls ratio, and all six Twins who reached against him did so in the top of the sixth. He threw 17 of 27 first pitches for strikes, a nice figure, but nothing compared to the 25 of 31 Santana posted. Ervin pitched a great game, and a winning one except for one player, in two at bats, of 31. It was No. 31,
A Bird, a Plane. No, Make that a Bird