Ivan Nova made a point of saying he “wasn’t thinking about last year” as he worked through the Twins lineup for a second and third time last night, but that doesn’t mean everyone else wasn’t. Even Russell Martin, who wasn’t even on the Yankees in 2010, was aware of Nova’s penchant for unraveling later in games.
So yes, Martin knew that Joe Girardi had Boone Logan and Dave Robertson warming up in the bullpen in the sixth inning, and yes, he knew that facing Jim Thome – who had ripped a double in his last at-bat – was exactly the kind of moment that might have undone Nova a year ago.
He still wanted Nova to stay in the game.
“I was happy (Girardi) left him in there,” Martin said afterward. “Right now, I think he’s just focusing on competing and not letting his foot off the pedal.”
Nova didn’t. In the at-bat where Thome doubled, Nova had tried to get a 3-2 change-up past the lefty DH, a pitch that took guts from a 24-year-old rookie and one that impressed Alex Rodriguez over at third base. “I didn’t think that was a bad pitch,” A-Rod said.
Facing Thome again, Nova wanted to stay aggressive and this time he went with his fastball, getting Thome to swing through the ball for the final out of the righty’s night. “When I faced him, I said, ‘I got to take him out right now’ and I did,” Nova said.
As impressive as that was, the at-bat that was even more memorable was how Nova handled Joe Mauer an inning earlier. With three runs on the board for the Twins and the tying run at second base, Nova could have seen his start turn ugly if the 3-time AL batting champion connected. Instead, Nova went with his curveball and got Mauer to roll over a grounder to second, impressing everyone – particularly his catcher and his manager.
“When he keeps the ball down, he’s got a lot of action,” Martin said.
“Those are things he needs to be able to do,” Girardi said. “That’s what we want to see.”