Hard to believe the difference between the first game of this series and the last. On Friday, the Yankees were in trouble. The team had lost three out of four, Joe Girardi was talking about shaking up the rotation and the road trip had the potential to be the Yankees worst of the season.
This afternoon, the mood was light and upbeat. Andy Pettitte had come through a strong bullpen, Lance Berkman was heading for a rehab assignment and a 23-year-old kid had the game ball sitting in his locker, having just pitched his way to a one-run win that was his first in the big leagues.
“We’re asking a young man to step up and that’s exactly what he’s doing,” Girardi said.
Ivan Nova said he felt no nerves, “just emotions” when he went to the mound today. It was 92 degrees at first pitch, the stadium was packed for Frank Thomas Day and the Yankees were in the thick of a pennant race. Nova had exactly one big league start under his belt, but he struck out seven, walked one and allowed just one extra-base hit.
“Maybe you guys never had an opportunity to see him in the minor leagues, but he’s always been the same way,” Francisco Cervelli said. “That’s what we try to do. It’s nothing different. Just a couple thousand more fans.”
Two starts into his career, it’s Nova’s poise that stands out. He’s been comfortable mixing all four pitches, and the curveball he promised would be better this time, was in fact better. Girardi waited only seconds into his postgame interview to announce that Nova would be making a third start.
“I’m ready, of course,” Nova said. “All the time.”
Here’s Girardi’s postgame. All the bangs and clangs you hear in the background is the truck being loaded with all of the Yankees bags and equipment.
• Big game for Cervelli. He came into the game with three hits this month, then went 4-for-4 for the first time he can remember, but he and Girardi each said Cervelli’s biggest moment was throwing out Brent Lillibridge trying to steal in the eighth inning. “I think every manager watches numbers, the percent of my throws,” Cervelli said. “It’s low, so they’re going to do it. I was ready and I had a good throw. That’s it.”
• Asked to remember his last four-hit game, Cervelli thought for a moment: “I think… never.” he said. Then he tried again to come up with a four-hit game he might have had in the minor leagues somewhere, but he again came up blank. “No chance,” he said. “Just three, that’s it.”
• I would imagine there are now a lot of Marcus Thames fans out there. He has a hit in 13 of his past 14 starts, and now has a home run in four straight starts. Five of his nine homers this season have come off righties.
• The scouting report on Thames is that he hits fastballs. At this point, he said, he’s used to getting nothing but breaking balls when he comes to the plate. “I’m just trying to get a good pitch to hit,” Thames said. “If they hang something, I get it.”
• Nick Swisher went 5-for-13 this series and is hitting .385 against the White Sox this year. Think he likes playing his old team?
• Brett Gardner hit .333 this road trip, including an RBI single that stood as the decisive blow today.
• One night after the bullpen was a little shaky, Boone Logan, Kerry Wood, Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera combined for 3.1 scoreless. Wood has a 0.71 ERA over his past 11 appearances.
• Girardi pulled Nova after 88 pitches because he thought Nova was starting to get up in the zone. “I decided it was time to make a change,” Girardi said.
• Mark Teixeira is day-to-day and wasn’t able to do much this afternoon. He said his bone bruise did not feel significantly better, but he’s hopeful a day of treatment will do him some good. “It didn’t feel good so I figured best to give it a rest and hope for the best tomorrow,” he said.
• Lance Berkman said he has still not been officially told he’s going to Trenton tomorrow, but he’s heard that “through the grapevine.” Girardi confirmed it during his pregame session, so you can count on Berkman being there tomorrow for a short two-game stint.
• A glimpse into Berkman’s personality: When the group of reporters asked him how quickly he thought he could be back, Berkman immediately went to his brand of self-deprecating humor. “I’m sure fans can’t wait for me to resume my pursuit of the Mendoza line,” he said.
Associated Press photos of Cervelli, Jeter and Thames