Ivan Nova bounced back from his shelling against the Royals last Tuesday as well as any0ne could’ve hoped for, hurling seven shutout innings of five-hit, five-strikeout, one-walk ball against the Twins, leading the Yankees to a 3-0 victory and series win. It was yet another impressive start in a season full of them for the Yankees’ young righthander.
Nova’s finest moment came in the fifth, with the score still 0-0. The Twins put their first two runners on — the second one reached on a fielding miscue between Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher — and Nova was facing a second-and-third, no-out jam. Nova came up huge, striking both Rene Tosoni and Matt Tolbert out on sliders before coaxing an inning-ending groundout out of Drew Butera.
Nova’s slider was his best pitch by far on Sunday, as he generated five swinging strikes out of the 14 he threw, for a whopping 36% whiff rate. Nova worked off his four-seamer, which didn’t get any swinging strikes, and his curve, which he there 19 times and got one swinging strike. Brooks also has Nova throwing four cutters, which he’d only thrown nine prior times this year according to TexasLeaguers.com, so it’s either a misclassification or perhaps he’s trying to work yet another pitch into his arsenal. Considering Nova’s four-seamer is arguably his least effective pitch, I’d be thrilled to see him develop a secondary fastball.
That the Yankees were even in a scoreless tie in the fifth was pretty unexpected, considering that Twins starter Nick Blackburn had to leave the game with a forearm injury with one out in the second inning and the bases loaded. I’d have to imagine that that’s one of the only times ever the Yankees worked a starter over for 49 pitches across four outs, the starter came out of the game, and the Yankees didn’t actually plate any runs until the 6th inning. Kudos to Anthony Swarzak (who retired all eight men he faced) and the Twins bullpen, I suppose, even if it is the worst in the American League.
The Yankees stranded 18 men on base in this one, with Alex Rodriguez — in his return from the disabled list — responsible for six of them, part of an 0-5 day for the Yankees’ cleanup hitter. Alex may have been a tad excited to get back, as he made outs on the first pitch in three of his five at-bats, but he did also work two full counts. Can’t wait to see the damage this team will do once Alex is fully comfortable and locked back in.
The Yankee offense was provided by a Russell Martin sacrifice fly, plating a Robinson Cano double, and back-to-back home runs by Granderson — his was of the inside-the-park variety, his first of that nature since 2007 — and Mark Teixeira.
This was the seventh time the Yankees shut their opponent out in 2011 — they had eight all of last season.
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