Yankeemetrics: May 15-17 (Royals)

The large lefty officially has a winning streak. (Charlie Riedel/AP)
The large lefty officially has a winning streak. (Charlie Riedel/AP)

Royal crush
The Yankees’ worst skid of the season continued with a 12-1 loss to the Royals on Friday night. Entering this series, they were the only AL team that hadn’t given up at least nine runs in a game this season. It was the first time the Yankees opened their season with a streak of at least 36 straight games allowing eight-or-fewer runs in each game since 1981 (38 games).

Michael Pineda‘s first start since his 16-strikeout game on Mothers Day couldn’t have been any more different than that historic one just a few days earlier.

He didn’t strike out his first batter until he got Lorenzo Cain swinging in the fifth inning, and that was the only guy that got rung up by Pineda in the game. Seems improbable, right? Almost. The last pitcher to get only one strikeout (or zero) in a game after whiffing at least 16 batters in his previous start was Mark Langston in 1988.

Although he struggled to put away batters, Pineda didn’t have any problems with his control, recording his fifth walk-free start of the season. Dating back to last September, Pineda hasn’t walked more than one guy in each of his last 10 games, pitching more than five innings in each of those starts. The only other Yankee in the last 100 years to fashion a streak like that was David Wells, who had also had a 10-game stretch in 1998 where he gave up one or fewer walks and pitched more than five innings in each outing.

Throwback Saturday
How do you snap your longest losing streak of the season? This formula usually works: a vintage performance from your former ace pitcher and a couple longballs from the middle of the order.

CC Sabathia scattered six hits and allowed one run over seven innings, earning his second straight win after going winless in his first six starts of the season. This was the fourth time Sabathia has started a game with the Yankees on a losing streak of at least four games – and he is now 4-0 in those four starts.

Chase Headley hit a tie-breaking three-run homer in the fifth inning and Alex Rodriguez added a solo shot in the ninth inning to provide the power in the Yankees’ 5-1 win. Three of Headley’s five homers this season have either tied the game or given the Yankees the lead, and each of those three has come with two outs in the inning.

For A-Rod, it was his 10th homer of the season, and he joins Mark Teixeira as Yankees with double-digit homers in 2015. The only other seasons in the last 40 years when the Yankees had two players with at least 10 homers within the team’s first 38 games were 2005 (A-Rod and Tino Martinez) and 2009 (Teixeira and Johnny Damon).

A first for everything
As bad as the Yankees offense has been recently, they still had not been shut out in 2015 until Sunday’s 6-0 loss in the series finale. They were one of two MLB teams that had scored at least one run in every game this season, along with the Tigers and Blue Jays. It was the first time they had been blanked since September 15, 2014, snapping a streak of 51 straight games with scoring a run, which was the longest active streak among all major-league teams.

The loss was also the Yankees’ first one on a Sunday this year. Entering the game they were the only team undefeated (5-0) on Sundays in the majors this season.

Chris Capuano‘s first start of the season was “not what you want,” as he gave up four runs before he was pulled in the fourth inning. He’s the first Yankee to allow at least four runs in three innings pitched or fewer in Kansas City since David Wells on August 11, 2003. Sunday (May 17) also happened to be the anniversary of Wells’ perfect game against the Twins in 1998. So there’s that, at least.

Yankeemetrics: May 11-14 (Rays)

(Steve Nesius/AP)
(Steve Nesius/AP)

From zero to hero
Finally. CC Sabathia got his first win of the season on Monday night as the Yankees beat the Rays in the series opener. His 0-5 record to start the season was the fourth-worst opening stretch by any Yankee lefty in the last 100 years.

The odds of getting a win were really stacked against CC entering the game. His 4-8 record at Tropicana Field was his worst at any ballpark he’d started more than five games, and the Yankees offense had scored just 13 runs during his first six starts this season. It makes perfect sense then that the Yankees broke out for 11 runs and gave the large lefty a rare win at Tropicana Field. Of course, what else were you expecting?

The Yankees backed Sabathia with barrage of home runs – five of them – and gave him plenty of run support to work with. It was their first five-homer game with Sabathia on the mound since May 8, 2011 against the Rangers. Since that night four years ago, the Yankees had eight other games with at least five homers — and somehow either Ivan Nova or Phil Hughes was the starting pitcher in five of them!

Singles night at the Trop
The Yankees scored two runs in the top of the first inning on Tuesday night but were then held scoreless the rest of the night despite generating a good number of scoring chances, and lost as the Rays rallied to win.

One day after it seemed like every ball went over the fence, the Yankees were held to just eight singles – that’s it. It was the first time since Opening Day that they didn’t have at least two extra-base hits in a game. That 32-game streak with multiple extra-base hits was tied for the fourth-longest by the franchise over the last 100 years.

Chris Archer held the Yankees to just two runs in seven innings, and though he didn’t get the win, he still hasn’t lost or given up more than three runs in seven starts vs. the team. He is the only pitcher to start his career with a streak of least seven unbeaten starts and three-or-fewer runs allowed against the Yankees in the last 100 years.

Deja vu?
The Yankees scored two runs in the top of the first inning on Wednesday night but were then held scoreless the rest of the night despite generating a good number of scoring chances, and lost as the Rays rallied to win.

Wait, what?! Did I just plagiarize myself? Sadly, yes.

They were also held without an extra-base hit for the second game in a row, scattering 10 singles off four Rays pitchers. It marked the first time the Yankees had at least eight hits, without any of them going for extra bases, in consecutive losses since Sept. 6-7, 1965 against the Orioles.

Adam Warren was the tough-luck loser on the mound for the Yankees, allowing three runs in a career-best seven innings. It was the first time in his 10 career starts that he completed at least six frames. Warren enters the record books as the only Yankee to debut in the last 100 years and pitch fewer than six innings in each of his first nine major-league starts.

A-Rod to the rescue
The offensive drought continued for the Yankees on Thursday, losing 6-1 to the Rays in the series finale. Alex Rodriguez saved the team from being shut out for the first time this season with a ninth inning solo homer, which also was their first extra base hit since Mark Teixeira homered in the ninth inning of Monday’s game. In between those longballs, the Yankees played 26 innings and hit 22 singles.

That was A-Rod’s fourth homer in seven games this year at Tropicana Field. No player on any team — even the Rays — has hit more homers at the ballpark this season. It also was his 1,000th RBI with the Yankees, making him the 13th player in team history to reach that milestone. Since RBI became official in 1920, that is easily the most 1,000-RBI players on any franchise (Cubs and Tigers are second with seven).

Erasmo Ramirez is the third starting pitcher in 2015 to hold the Yankees to one hit with five-or-more innings pitched (Anibal Sanchez on April 23, Joe Kelly on April 11). Only three pitchers did that against the team in all of 2014. There’s still four-and-a-half months left of baseball to play this season.

Should we believe in Carlos Beltran’s breakout May?

Is Beltran's hot streak for real? (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Is Beltran’s hot streak for real? (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

To say Carlos Beltran had a slow start to the season would be a massive understatement. There is no sugar-coating the fact that for the first month of 2015, Carlos Beltran looked every bit like a struggling 38-year-old veteran in decline. He was unable to catch up to fastballs, repeatedly chased breaking balls out of the zone and was essentially a near-automatic out almost every time he stepped to the plate.

His numbers in April were just plain ugly — 11-for-68 (.162), seven RBI, 21 strikeouts, five walks — which ranked him among the bottom-10 players in batting average, on-base percentage and OPS. According to weighted runs created — a statistic that attempts to quantify a player’s total offensive value — Beltran was 76 percent worse than the league average hitter, ranking 181st out of 186 qualifying players in the month.

He was a black hole in the Yankees lineup, and scouts around the league were calling for him to become a platoon/DH-type player, citing how slow and un-athletic he looked in the field and at the plate. Yet Joe Girardi kept running him out there nearly every day, insisting that he’d find his swing again.

Two weeks into the month of May, and it looks like Beltran may finally be breaking out of his slump. Sure, Girardi hinted that Beltran was better than his numbers showed in April because of his high “exit velocity” — but who could have predicted this outburst? Beltran already has more hits and RBIs this month than all of April and, after going homerless in his first 98 at-bats of the season, he hit two homers in a span of four at-bats on May 10 and 11.

What has been the key to Beltran’s breakthrough? His recent hot streak is obviously a very small sample of less than a dozen games, so we can’t suddenly say that Beltran is completely fixed and back to being the highly productive middle-of-the-order bat who excelled with the Cardinals in 2012 and 2013. But are there signs that he’s turned the corner and on the verge of being at least a capable hitter in the Yankees lineup for the rest of the season?

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First, let’s take a glance at his traditional batting stats.

CARLOS BELTRAN THIS SEASON

Month PA AB H HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
April 74 68 11 0 7 5 21 0.162 0.216 0.265 0.481
May 43 41 13 2 8 2 4 0.317 0.349 0.561 0.910

Bravo! Everything is looking good here: he’s getting on base more, he’s hitting for power and he’s significantly cut his strikeout rate. Remember earlier when we said that Beltran in April was 76 percent worse than league average in terms of his overall offensive production … this month, he is 50 percent above league average in that same stat.

Beyond those basic numbers, Beltran also appears to have made fundamental changes to his plate approach. Although his walk rate remains below-average, he’s become more aggressive swinging at pitches within the strike zone (that’s good!), and is making more contact overall (90 percent in May vs. 81 percent in April). He has cut his swinging strike rate from 9.3 percent to 6.7 percent, and has whiffed on just one pitch in the strike zone in May:

image (4)

His monthly batted ball profile also makes you optimistic that Beltran has become a different – and better – hitter in May. Most significantly, he is hitting the ball harder and is really starting to show his pull-side power stroke at the plate.

Beltran has doubled his line drive rate over the last two months, while increasing his percentage of hard-hit balls from 23 percent in April to 35 percent in May. Last month, only one of every three balls he put into play were pulled; this month, 60 percent of his batted balls have been hit to his pull side.

Another encouraging sign is that Beltran’s bat speed appears to have returned — he has had little trouble handling above-average velocity fastballs in May. He was just 1-for-13 in at-bats ending in a pitch 93 mph or higher during the first month of the season; this month, he has six hits in 10 at-bats ending in 93-plus mph pitches. After whiffing or fouling off 39 percent of those 93-plus mph pitches in April, he’s chopped that rate to just 19 percent in May.

Here’s what the “May” Beltran can do to a 94 mph fastball in his hitting sweetspot:

ezgif.com-gif-maker (2)

If there is one concern about Beltran’s recent hot streak, it’s that the entire thing has come against right-handed pitchers. Literally. He is 0-for-9 against lefties in May and 13-for-32 (.406) against righties. That’s not a serious problem yet because he’s had so few plate appearances against them – but given the fact he was awful against southpaws in April (3-for-20), too, you’d like to see him get a few hits from the right side of the plate this month before declaring him completely back.

Despite the small sample of his empty at-bats against lefties this month, there is a lot to like about what Beltran is doing at the plate in May. The improvement in his peripheral batting stats – i.e. the decline in his strikeout and whiff rates – combined with a better approach at the plate and real increases in his ability to hit the ball with power, indicate that Beltran’s performance in May just might be sustainable for a few more months.

If Beltran can remain healthy the rest of the season, the Yankees may have added yet another dangerous bat to a lineup that already was among the best in the league, giving them even more firepower to remain atop the AL East and on track for a deep playoff run in October.

Yankeemetrics: May 7-10 (Orioles)

Can we just give him the Cy Young today? (AP Photo)
Can we just give him the Cy Young today? (AP Photo)

We’re going to kick things off with Pineda’s spectacular outing on Mother’s Day… because, well, do we really need a reason?!

The Yankees won their 20th game of the season on Sunday afternoon but the story of the game was the incredible performance by Michael Pineda, who struck out 16 batters without allowing a walk in seven innings. It was a historic day for the 26-year-old right-hander at Yankee Stadium:

• He is the first Yankee with at least 16 strikeouts and no walks in a game. The last major-league pitcher to do it was Johan Santana on Aug. 19, 2007.
• At 26 years old, Pineda is the youngest pitcher with a 16-strikeout, no-walk game since a 22-year-old Mark Prior on June 26, 2003.
• He is the only MLB pitcher in at least the last 100 years (and probably ever) to have 16-or-more strikeouts and zero walks in a game when pitching fewer than eight innings.
• Pineda is the second Yankee right-hander to strike out 16 batters in a game, joining David Cone on June 23, 1997 vs. the Tigers.

And just for fun: He struck out 16 in seven innings, the equivalent of 20.6 strikeouts in nine innings. The major-league record for strikeouts in a nine-inning game is 20. If only Pineda had a rubber arm and there were no pitch counts…

He featured a nasty slider all afternoon, which netted him 12 swings-and-misses and eight strikeouts by Orioles batters. Pineda now has 30 strikeouts via his slider this season, the most among all pitchers in the majors.

Pineda is 7-0 in his last nine starts dating back to last September, with at least five strikeouts and no more than one walk in each of those games. Only two other pitchers have put together a streak like that – no losses, five-or-more strikeouts and no walks in a nine-start span – in the last 100 years: Bret Saberhagen in 1994 and Curt Schilling in 2002.

Pineda has three games this season with no walks, at least seven strikeouts and a win. Here’s the list of pitchers to do that within the team’s first 32 games during the last 100 years: Walter Johnson (1916), Greg Maddux (1994) and Fergie Jenkins (1971). Oh, just a few Hall of Famers, and Pineda.

A-Rod ‘says goodbye’ to Willie
With one swing of the bat, Alex Rodriguez once again etched his name in the record books – passing Willie Mays to move into sole possession of fourth place on the all-time home run list – and helped the Yankees to another key win over a division rival. Check out the similarities between career homers No. 660 and 661:

Last week it was a pinch-hit solo homer that broke a 2-2 tie to help the Yankees beat the Red Sox; on Thursday night it was another tie-breaking solo shot to give the Yankees a 3-2 lead against the Orioles, in a game they would eventually win, 4-3.

The (not) milestone home run No. 661 came off Chris Tillman, a pitcher that A-Rod has absolutely owned in his career. He’s now 6-for-12 with four homers vs. Tillman, good for a nice round slugging percentage of 1.500 – his highest against any of the 315 pitchers he has at least 10 at-bats against in his career.

Nate Eovaldi gutted through 5 2/3 innings, allowing three runs on six hits for the win. He did match a season-high with 14 swinging strikes, six of which came via his curveball – a career-best whiff total for that pitch.

And your official 2015 Yankees closer is …
The Yankees followed a familiar script in beating the Orioles 5-4 on Friday night: a big blast to give the team an early lead, followed by a near-flawless performance from the back end of the bullpen to secure the win.

Brian McCann provided the power, sending a 3-0 pitch from Miguel Gonzalez over the fence that put the Yankees up 3-0 in the first inning. After Friday’s game, the Yankees had swung at four 3-0 pitches this season – and two of them turned into home runs (also A-Rod’s 660th last week). They are the only team this season to hit two homers on 3-0 pitches.

Trying to protect a one-run lead, Andrew Miller came on in the ninth inning to finish off the game and did Andrew Miller things. He pitched a perfect inning for his 13th save of the season, of course. And for the 15th time in 15 games, he didn’t allow any runs or more than one hit. Guess how many Yankee pitchers have ever started a season with a streak like that? Keep guessing…. Yup, none.

The Chase is over
Chase Whitley came crashing back down to Earth in Saturday’s loss to the Orioles, allowing five runs in 5 2/3 innings after he entered the game with a shiny 0.75 ERA in his first two starts this season.

It was hardly surprising that he ran into trouble against the O’s. He’s now pitched 11 1/3 innings vs. Baltimore and allowed 14 earned runs, good for a 11.12 ERA that ranks as the second-highest against the Orioles by any active pitcher (min. 10 IP). Only the Padres’ Tyson Ross (17.10) has a worse mark than Whitley.

Jose Pirela was the only Yankee with more than one hit in the game, going 2-for-4 and notching the fifth multi-hit game of his career. He is just the seventh Yankee to debut in the last 100 years and have at least five multi-hit games within his first 10 career major-league appearances. He’s in some pretty good company here: Jerry Coleman (1949), Snuffy Stirnweiss (1943), Phil Rizzuto (1941), Joe DiMaggio (1936), Leo Durocher (1928), Norm McMillan (1922).

Yankeemetrics: May 4-6 (Blue Jays)

This is what an ace looks like. (Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports)
This is what an ace looks like. (Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports)

The Chase is on
The situation was set up perfectly for another Yankees win in the series opener when they took a 1-0 lead into the eighth inning against Toronto. Entering Monday, the Yankees:

• were 12-0 when leading after seven innings
• had allowed seven runs in the eighth and ninth innings combined (tied for fewest in AL)
• had one blown save (tied for fewest among teams with more than five save opportunities)

But the Yankees bullpen proved to be mortal on this night, giving up three runs and coughing up that one-run lead, handing the Blue Jays a 3-1 victory.

They wasted a gem by Chase Whitley, who threw seven scoreless innings with six strikeouts and no walks. His changeup was really nasty; he threw 14 of them and those pitches netted him five whiffs and six outs (including three strikeouts), with just one hit allowed.

R.A. Dickey dominated the Yankee lineup for eight innings with his knuckleball, allowing just one run and three hits despite not getting any strikeouts. The only other pitcher in the last 30 years with at least eight innings pitched and no strikeouts in a game against the Yankees was the Tigers’ Steve Sparks on June 19, 2001.

Ace Pineda
Another dominant performance from a starting pitcher, another win, ho hum. On Tuesday night the gem was delivered by the man that has rightfully earned that title of staff ace, Michael Pineda, who pitched perhaps his best game of the season.

The right-hander threw eight scoreless innings, allowed five hits and struck out six batters in leading the Yankees to a bounceback 6-3 win over the Blue Jays. Dating back to last year, he’s now 6-0 with a 2.38 ERA in his last eight starts. Perhaps most impressive is the fact that he’s had incredible command of the strike zone during this undefeated run, with at least five strikeouts and no more than one walk in each of those eight games.

You know how many other pitchers have fashioned an eight-start streak like that – at least five strikeouts, one or fewer walks and no losses – over the last 100 seasons? Two. Curt Schilling in 2002 and Bret Saberhagen in 1994.

Jacoby Ellsbury had another all-around awesome game, with three hits, two stolen bases and two runs scored – the fourth time he’s reached each of those totals in a game with the Yankees. The only players in franchise history to have more games like that in their entire career with the team are Roberto Kelly (5) and Rickey Henderson (5). Yeah, Ellsbury has been in pinstripes for only two seasons.

“Ya know, Suzyn…”
There’s a popular saying among fans (and radio broadcasters) that “you can’t predict baseball.” But if there ever was one thing about baseball that you could predict, it was that the Yankees would win a game started by Mark Buehrle.

Entering the series finale, the 16-year veteran had made 21 career starts versus the Bronx Bombers and won exactly one of those. His 1-14 record was second-worst among any pitcher in the last 100 years that had made at least 15 starts vs. the Yankees. The lone win came on April 10, 2004. Since then, Buehrle had….

• lost 12 straight decisions against the Yankees, tied for the fourth-longest losing streak vs. the franchise by any pitcher in the last 100 years
• gone 17 consecutive starts without a win against the Yankees, the second-longest winless streak vs. the franchise by any pitcher in the last 100 years

So, of course, on Wednesday night in Toronto he held the Yankees to one run in five innings pitched and got the win. #Weirdbaseball

CC Sabathia took the loss and fell to 0-5 in six starts, becoming the first Yankee to lose his first five decisions of the season since Chien-Ming Wang in 2009. He also lost his first game in Toronto as a member of the Yankees (entered the game 4-0 in five starts). Sabathia’s unbeaten streak of five consecutive starts at the Rogers Centre was tied for the longest at the ballpark by any Yankee pitcher.

Michael Pineda is changing things up … for the better

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

With the health of Masahiro Tanaka‘s wrist/forearm/elbow a huge question mark following his latest DL stint, Michael Pineda has assumed the de facto role of ace in the Yankees rotation. While his 3.73 ERA is nothing special, his peripherals and defense-independent stats are flat-out ridiculous, and probably are the better indicator of his true pitching performance this season.

In 31 1/3 innings, Pineda has struck out 32 batters, walked two guys (!) and allowed two home runs. That all adds up to an AL-best 16-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a FIP of 2.20, which ranks among the five best in baseball. He’s even sporting a career-best ground ball rate of 55 percent, putting him in rare company this season:

There are three pitchers who are striking out more than one-quarter of batters faced, with a walk rate below five percent and are getting grounders on more than 50 percent of balls in play: Felix Hernandez, Clayton Kershaw and Michael Pineda. Any time your name is on a short list with those two pitchers, you’re doing something right.

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Prior to his first start of the season, I wrote here about one key improvement Pineda needed to make in order to truly stand out atop of the Yankees rotation: the ability to pitch deep into games. That obviously doesn’t tell the whole story of how he can develop into an ace, though.

Another trait the best pitchers in the game share is an arsenal that features at least three above-average, quality pitches they can throw in nearly any count. Pineda has always been able to unleash a devastating fastball-slider combo, and relied heavily on that mix last year, throwing those two pitches nearly 90 percent of the time. But this season he’s added a much-improved changeup which has brought him that much closer to achieving “ace” status.

Let’s take a deeper look at the development of this new weapon and how Pineda is using his newfound toy to dominate hitters.

Pineda clearly has more confidence in his changeup this season and is consistently going to that third pitch every outing. He has thrown his changeup at least 10 percent of the time in all five of his starts in 2015, a rate that he reached in just six of 13 starts last year.

Not only has he increased its overall usage from 9.3 percent to 13.6 percent, per Brooksball.net, he’s also more comfortable throwing it to both lefties and righties. He’s already thrown 25 changeups to right-handed batters this season, 10 more than he threw in all of 2014.

Another indication of his increased confidence in the changeup is his willingness to use it as an out-pitch, to complement his already-nasty slider. He’s more than doubled his changeup usage in two-strike counts over the last two seasons (from 9 percent to 20 percent), giving hitters yet another off-speed pitch they have to worry about when falling behind in the count.

MICHAEL PINEDA PITCH USAGE WITH 2 STRIKES

Year Fastball pct Changeup pct Slider pct
2015 28.5% 20.0% 51.5%
2014 44.9% 8.8% 46.3%

Although the pitch is still evolving, it’s been really effective for him in finishing off batters. Pineda has thrown 26 two-strike changeups and gotten eight strikeouts with those pitches (all swinging!) this season, giving him a changeup “put-away” rate of 31 percent that is tied for second in the majors (min. 50 pitches). Daniel Murphy had no chance when he decided to swing at this 87 mph two-strike changeup on April 24:

While strikeouts are nice and flashy and get the crowd pumped up, the real bread-and-butter of Pineda’s changeup is in its ability to get ground balls. Batters have put 13 of his changeups in play this season, and 10 of those have been grounders. That’s a ground ball rate of 77 percent on his changeup which puts him among the top-5 in the majors and is a huge jump from last year’s mark of 44 percent.

It’s no secret that the key to getting more grounders is to pound the bottom of the strike zone, and Pineda has done exactly that with his changeup this season. He’s improved the location of the pitch this season compared to last year, leaving fewer hanging changeups and burying more of those pitches below the hitters’ knees.

2014 changeup pineda

The changeup, however, remains a work in progress for Pineda. He’s struggled to command it on the edges, getting just four called strikes compared to 33 (called) balls this season, a rate that ranks in the bottom 10 percent among major-league pitchers.

While you never want to serve up meatballs in the middle of the plate, you need to at least occasionally throw something that looks like a strike in order to keep hitters honest. Pineda, though, has put only 10 of his 65 changeups (15 percent) in the zone. So far he has relied mostly on hitters’ poor discipline to get outs, which probably isn’t sustainable over a full season.

Despite the control problems, it’s hard not to be optimistic about the development and improvement of Pineda’s changeup this season. If he can continue to throw the pitch with confidence and become more consistent in its execution, Pineda could have three plus-pitches with which to dominate lineups – and should be nearly ready to put the title of “ace” next to his name on the back of his baseball card.

Yankeemetrics: May 1-3 (Red Sox)

Number 660 for Al from Miami (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Number 660 for Al from Miami. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

The Not Milestone Home Run
Alex Rodriguez just doesn’t do normal. So it was hardly surprising when his 660th career home run on Friday night played out like a movie script: a pinch-hit, tie-breaking solo shot in the eighth inning that not only silenced the unremitting boos of the Fenway crowd but also lifted the Yankees to a critical win over the Red Sox.

Although he’s had his share of dramatic longballs in his career, this home run was far from predictable for A-Rod:

• Before Friday, he was 1-for-19 as a pinch-hitter (including the postseason) and that lone hit was a single in 2013. Of those 19 at-bats, only three times did he even hit the ball to the outfield.
• He swung away on a 3-0 pitch and hit just the third homer of his career on a 3-0 count. The others were in 2001 off Barry Zito and 2009 off Ervin Santana.
• The pitch that went over the Green Monster was a 94 mph fastball from Junichi Tazawa; prior to the homer, A-Rod was 1-for-13 in at-bats ending in pitches at least 94 mph this season.

Matching Willie Mays for fourth place on the all-time home run list wasn’t the only history that A-Rod made with that swing of the bat.

He also became the first Yankee to hit a go-ahead pinch-hit home run at Fenway since Johnny Blanchard in 1961. And the homer was his fourth against the Red Sox in the eighth inning or later that gave the Yankees the lead – twice as many as any other Yankee has hit in the last 50 years.

Evolution of Eovaldi
The Yankees clinched their fifth straight series win this season with a 4-2 victory against the Red Sox on Saturday afternoon. It’s also the fourth series in a row at Fenway Park that they’ve taken from the Red Sox.

Nathan Eovaldi turned in another strong outing by holding the Red Sox to just two runs while pitching into the seventh inning. For the first time all season, his four-seam fastball was a legit weapon, netting him 14 outs and allowing just two hits off the pitch. Entering the game, batters were hitting .481 in at-bats ending in his heater, the worst mark among all pitchers this season (min. 100 fastballs).

With Joe Girardi deciding to rest the official non-closer, Dellin Betances got his first save opportunity of the season and left no doubt that he could handle the pressure of closing out a game. He entered in the eighth inning and needed just 14 pitches to strike out all four batters he faced to secure the 4-2 win.

How impressive was that performance? Betances joined Goose Gossage (May 14, 1982) and Mariano Rivera (June 24, 2009) as the only Yankee relievers to record a save of at least four outs and strike out every batter he faced.

Brooms out in Beantown
The Yankees improved to 16-9 with a win on Sunday night, giving them their first series sweep of three-or-more games at Fenway Park since the epic five-game sweep in August 2006.

Jacoby Ellsbury is scorching hot right now and added four more hits on Sunday night, bringing his season batting average up to .351. He is the first Yankee outfielder to go 4-for-4 or better against the Red Sox since Dave Winfield in 1985. Ellsbury also walked and was hit by a pitch, becoming the first Yankee to reach base six times in a nine-inning game against Red Sox since Snuffy Stirnweiss in 1945.

Brett Gardner put the game out of reach with a three-run homer in the sixth inning to make it 8-0, the second straight day he plated three runs against Boston. He’s the first Yankee left fielder with back-to-back games of at least three RBI and two hits against the Red Sox since Mickey Mantle in 1966.

Despite a shaky ninth inning during which he loaded the bases, Andrew Miller pitched a scoreless frame for his 10th save in 10 tries this season. Miller is the second Yankee to convert his first 10 save opportunities with the team (since saves became an official stat in 1969), joining Tippy Martinez in 1975-1976.