As good as Ivan Nova was tonight, the Yankees bullpen ran yet another perfect relay, reprising its Opening Day routine when Joba Chamberlain took a lead from the starter in the seventh inning, passed it to Rafael Soriano in the eighth before Mariano Rivera finished things in the ninth. That’s how the Yankees drew it up before the season, and after tonight’s game Joe Girardi officially named Joba Chamberlain as his seventh inning reliever.
“Right now, that’s what we’re doing,” Girardi said. “We love the way he threw the ball in spring training (and) Joba has the ability to get lefties out as well as righties.”
There had been some concern about Chamberlain’s velocity over the weekend, but Girardi downplayed it and is – obviously – very pleased with how the end-game bullpen crew has played out. “That’s what you want to have, and we have that luxury,” Girardi said.
• As Alex Rodriguez said, some of the situations Nova faced late in his outing tonight were kind of “hairy,” most notably the fifth inning when he faced Joe Mauer with the tying run on second. “You got to be careful with him,” Nova said of the three-time AL batting champion, and he was … but not so much that he wasn’t going to go after him.
Using his curveball, Nova got Mauer to roll over a ground ball to second base and escape with the Yankees lead still intact. Considering his history from last season when facing hitters for the second and third time, it was a significant accomplishment for Nova, as was his strikeout of Jim Thome an inning later.
“That was a very big at-bat,” A-Rod said of Nova getting Mauer. “He made some really, really good pitches.”
• Mark Teixeira had the same reaction that you probably did when he got hit in the foot in the first inning. “I was just like, ‘Oh no, not again,’” he said afterward, but was pleased to report that the pitch actually caught him a little closer to his toes so the pain wasn’t too bad. He said he’s fine.
• Rafael Soriano has allowed just one earned run in his last 18 innings against AL Central opponents – thanks, Yankees PR staff for that nugget – and he’s clearly comfortable with his new role as Rivera’s set-up man. Here’s something else you might not know about him: He’s a strong clubhouse presence. According to Girardi, Soriano has “a sense of humor (and) he wants to teach as well. Those are the things you don’t know about a guy.”
• Alex Rodriguez had two RBI, giving him 1,835 for his career and tying him with Rafael Palmeiro for 14th place on the all-time list. A-Rod also hit his 615th career home run. “I just got a good pitch to hit and smoked it,” he said. Well all right.
• Jorge Posada? Apparently loving life as the DH. He’s got three home runs in his past six at-bats.
• The Twins just can’t beat the Yankees. They’ve lost 18 of their last 20 overall against the Yankees and have won four of their last 30 regular-season games in the Bronx.