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Nathan Eovaldi and the Yankees evolving into legitimate threats

MINNEAPOLIS -- This is what happens with playoff-caliber teams. They transform series against good teams from potential disasters into triumphs. They have young, talented question marks beginning to answer to their potential. That describes this weekend at Target Field for the New York Yankees.

The Minnesota Twins began the series on a 15-1 run after 12 innings. They ended up losing two of three to the Yankees. Alex Rodriguez made CC Sabathia's poor start vanish with three home runs on Saturday, while Nathan Eovaldi and the bottom of the order -- including Stephen Drew, who hit a two-run homer -- took care of business Sunday as the Yankees closed out the Twins, 7-2.

"I feel like it was the best start I had all year," the 25-year-old Eovaldi said after his eight innings of two-run, eight-hit ball.

It is not time to crown Eovaldi as a legitimate starter for the next 10 starts, let alone the next 10 years, but he again showed encouraging signs.

It is the splitter that might be changing Eoavaldi from a guy with talent to a guy the Yankees can rely on. Eovaldi has always had gas, throwing his fastball in the mid-to-high 90s, but major league hitters can take advantage of that -- especially when it's straight and they know it's coming. The splitter is as hard to master as it is to hit and provides a way to knock batters' balance off.

"It gets hitters off his fastball," said Brian McCann, who caught Eovaldi Sunday.

Eovaldi started fooling with the splitter at the end of his time in Miami last season. He has worked on it all season, and it has recently taken off.

"It is a way-above-average pitch," McCann said.

It could transform Eovaldi from a nice guy with talent to a nice guy with success. He is 10-2 in large part because his run support (more than seven runs per game) is among the best in baseball. He has received four or more runs in 10 of his 20 starts. That makes it pretty easy to win games, even with an ERA of 4.27.

Eovaldi barely needed any help Sunday -- though he got a couple of sparkling plays in the outfield from Jacoby Ellsbury -- to control the Twins' offense. He lasted into the ninth, when he gave up a leadoff double to Miguel Sano. It was the first extra base hit that Eovaldi had allowed in five starts.

"I really don't think we have seen the best out of him," Chase Headley said.

With Sabathia struggling, Eovaldi or Ivan Nova could move into that No. 3 role in the rotation. Eovaldi might have the ability to evolve from a guy who can't give you more than five or six innings to one who can work into the the seventh, eighth and ninth.

"He doesn't lose [velocity] as the game goes on," Joe Girardi said. "He stays strong. It is just a maturation process and he is doing it right in front of us."

The Yankees might be maturing as a team. Most clubs rely on the top half of their order, which makes sense, especially in this day and age of baseball that features so many mediocre lineups.

The really good teams receive production from the bottom of their order. On Sunday, the six through nine hitters (Garrett Jones, Headley, Didi Gregorius and Drew) picked up all seven RBIs. That is how good teams -- playoff teams -- operate.

The Yankees looked as if they could be in for a lost weekend in Minnesota. They hit old buddy Phil Hughes hard on Friday, but had nothing to show for it. On Saturday, Sabathia got knocked around. By Sunday, the Yankees had won two of three.

They have the second-best record in the American League and may be running away with things in the East.