Ivan Nova has had an up-and-down 2012 season, showing improved peripheral ratios but giving up sky-high home run totals. In today’s outing against the Rays, Nova looked to create some positive momentum and build on the impressive outing Andy Pettitte posted on Tuesday night. The Yankees looked to creep into first place with a win over the Rays and a Baltimore loss.
Things did not get off to a great start for Nova when the speedy Desmond Jennings singled to lead off the game. However, Nova bounced back by striking out BJ Upton on a nasty slider and inducing Matt Joyce to ground into an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play. Nova threw just 10 pitches in the 1st, and followed it up with an 8-pitch 2nd inning, and this efficiency boded well for Nova’s longevity in this game.
The Yankees got on the board against Alex Cobb in the bottom of the 2nd when Mark Teixeira crushed a hanging curveball to the 2nd deck in right field for a solo home run, putting the Yankees ahead 1-0. The Yankees were unable to do any further damage in this inning, but the way Nova was pitching, 1 run looked like a good start.
Nova and Cobb both took care of business in the 3rd, and Nova ran into a bit of trouble in the 4th. After striking out BJ Upton looking on a 94 mph fastball, Nova walked Matt Joyce. A grounder to 1st and a wild pitch put Joyce on 3rd base with 2 outs, and brought old friend Hideki Matsui to the plate. Nova escaped, as Matsui hit a deep fly to center that Curtis Granderson tracked down to end the inning.
The Yankee offense started to click again in the bottom of the 4th. After a Curtis Granderson flyout, Alex Rodriguez walked. A-Rod was subsequently picked off, bringing Cano to the plate with the bases empty and 2 out. Cano, the newly-named AL home run derby captain, proved worthy of that honor by hitting a laser shot to right, giving the Yankees a 2-0 lead.
Nova was on cruise control for the next 4 innings, with another deep flyball by Matsui and a Sean Rodriguez double representing the only threats. In the bottom of the 8th, the Yankees were able to add some insurance runs, on consecutive RBI doubles by Nick Swisher and Eric Chavez, to give them a 4-0 lead.
The 4-run lead allowed Nova to get the opportunity to go out in the 9th for a complete game. Unfortunately, he ran into a bit of trouble, giving up back-to-back triples to Jennings and Upton. This ended the shutout, and cut the Yankee lead to 3. Joe Girardi took no chances, bringing in Rafael Soriano to slam the door. Soriano succeeded in that initiative, getting Joyce to pop out to Russell Martin and striking out Ben Zobrist before retiring Matsui on another deep fly ball.
This was probably Nova’s strongest outing of the year, as he went 8 strong innings, giving up a run on 4 hits and a walk, with 5 strikeouts. He excelled at keeping the ball on the ground today (12 groundouts against 4 flyouts), which was an area that he had struggled with early in the season. Nova was able to keep his fastball down in the zone very effectively, and his secondary offerings looked very solid as well. I don’t know if the increased groundball rate is related to a change in approach (pitch f/x might tell us), or whether this was simply the result of facing a struggling Rays lineup. Either way, it was a very encouraging sign for Nova, and hopefully he can continue to pitch this effectively.
The Yankee offense only managed 5 hits against Cobb, but were able to scratch across a few runs with 2 home runs and 2 doubles. With Nova pitching as well as he was against an anemic Tampa lineup, 4 runs proved to be more than enough. The Yankees will go back to work against the Rays tomorrow, with CC Sabathia on the hill looking to make it 3 in a row.
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TagsA.J. Burnett Alex Rodriguez Andy Pettitte Austin Romine Baltimore Orioles Bartolo Colon Boston Red Sox Brett Gardner Brian Cashman Bullpen CC Sabathia Chien-Ming Wang Cliff Lee Curtis Granderson David Robertson Dellin Betances Derek Jeter Francisco Cervelli Freddy Garcia Game Recap Hiroki Kuroda Ivan Nova Javier Vazquez Jesus Montero Joba Chamberlain Joe Girardi Johnny Damon Jorge Posada Manny Banuelos Mariano Rivera Mark Teixeira Melky Cabrera Michael Pineda New York New York Yankees Nick Johnson Nick Swisher Phil Hughes Prospects Rafael Soriano Red Sox Robinson Cano Russell Martin Tampa Bay Rays Yankees