Ivan Nova very nearly did it again yesterday. He very nearly walked that fine line all the way to a quality start.
Nova had also flirted with danger in his first start of the season, but against Minnesota he managed to get outs when he needed them. Yesterday in Boston, Nova put the leadoff man on base four times, and he had a runner in scoring position with less than two outs five times. He limited the damage for a while, but after the Yankees failed to turn an inning-ending double play, Nova’s thin ice finally broke in the fourth inning, and the bullpen had to bail him out of the fifth.
“From the first inning, I tried to throw strikes, but I can’t,” Nova said. “It’s hard when you don’t throw strikes with your fastball, then you have to throw other pitches, but especially me, I focus a lot on my fastball and when I don’t have command of my fastball it’s a little hard to get the job done.”
When Nova is at his best, he’s locating that fastball consistently down in the zone. He has a solid breaking ball and changeup, but it’s the fastball that helps him generate a lot of ground balls and create easy outs. He’s shown he can do it, he just hasn’t done it consistently.
“I thought he struggled a little bit locating on the first-base side of the plate,” Girardi said. “I thought that’s what got him into trouble in a couple of those innings.”
Maybe it was that specific. Maybe Nova was having trouble in one spot and that cost him. Whatever the root cause, the result was a lot of base runners. Nova has shown he can get out of trouble, but it’s hard to escape that danger time after time after time. That’s especially true when the leadoff man is getting on base over and over and over again.
“That kind of was a problem I had today,” Nova said. “In every inning the leadoff gets on base, and most of the time when the leadoff guy gets on base, it’s a run. I think that’s something we’ve got to start working on.”
Associated Press photo