Eovaldi only allowed three hits and struck out eight in the 2-0 win over the Yankees, who dropped their second straight in Arlington without star slugger Aaron Judge.
The 33-year-old Eovaldi — who signed a two-year, $34 million contract with Texas in the offseason — entered with a 5.20 ERA and hadn’t gone more than six innings in a game this year. But Eovaldi, who went 23-11 with the Yankees from 2015-16, returned to form Saturday, repeatedly hurling fastballs a few ticks harder than the 93.9 mph he averaged over his first five starts.
“He kind of bullied us,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “Used both sides of the plate, was a little unpredictable. He was slowing us down a little bit with the curveball, but obviously the cutter and the split, and stuff-wise, he was throwing hard.”
Yankees starter Jhony Brito traded zeroes with Eovaldi over the first four innings but gave up a two-run home run to Ezequiel Duran in the fifth that proved to be the difference. Brito struck out five batters in five innings and fell to 2-3.
Run-saving plays by the Yankees defense kept them in the game. Jake Bauers, who was called up Saturday morning, made a tough sliding catch in left field to end a Rangers first-inning scoring threat, but crashed hard into the wall and left with a right knee contusion.
X-rays on Bauers’ leg were negative, and he’s set to undergo further testing Sunday. Bauers hit nine home runs in 21 games at Triple-A Scanton/Wilkes-Barre before being promoted.
“Tough to deal with [leaving the game], but I think at the end of the day, everything happens for a reason,” said Bauers, who described his knee as being swollen. “Might not always know what that reason is, but just trying to keep my head up and … see where we’re at tomorrow.”
The Rangers also didn’t score in the third inning after putting runners on second and third with nobody out. With the infield in, shortstop Anthony Volpe fielded a short hop off the bat of Travis Jankowski and threw Duran out at home. Aaron Hicks, who replaced Bauers in left, later made a leaping catch on a deep drive by Nathaniel Lowe, nearly colliding with center fielder Isiah Kiner-Falefa in the process.
Saturday marked the second straight punchless performance on offense by the Yankees, who had five hits in Friday’s 5-2 loss at Globe Life Field. They have now scored three runs or fewer in seven of their last nine games.
“It was just his night,” Hicks said of Eovaldi. “Everything was working for him, and he was hitting his spots.”
Judge left Thursday’s series opener with a right hip injury, which he suffered the day before on an awkward, head-first slide into third base against the Minnesota Twins. An MRI on Friday revealed Judge has a mild hip strain, Boone said Saturday. The Yankees hope to decide by Monday whether Judge requires a stint on the injured list.
“We’re just treating him day-to-day, and he’s shown a lot of improvements here in the last two days,” Boone said before the game.
The Yankees kicked off the four-game set in Arlington with a 4-2 win Thursday, with ace Gerrit Cole turning in another strong outing to improve to 5-0. They’ll look to salvage a series split Sunday with Nestor Cortes facing Rangers starter Martin Perez.