Two weeks ago, Ivan Nova seemed to be pitching for his spot in the rotation. At the very least, he was close to pitching for his spot in the rotation. The Yankees always downplayed it, but through three starts, Nova had struggled to give the Yankees distance and his outings seemed to be getting progressively worse.
He’s turned it around quickly and decisively. In each of his past three starts, Nova has pitched into the seventh inning without allowing more than two runs. Tonight was his best start of the season, a ground ball extravaganza that lasted 7.1 innings with only two hits, both of them singles.
“He showed me work ethic, (and) he showed me confidence,” Joe Girardi said. “It’s not easy. When you’re struggling as a young player at this level, it’s not easy because people are talking and the thoughts creep in your head. Am I going to go down? What move are they going to make? He showed me that he has fight, and he has the ability to take on a challenge and find a way to get better.”
Nova knows what he is and what he’s not. He’s not a really a sinkerballer, but he’s a ground ball pitcher. He doesn’t get a lot of strikeouts, but he has to throw a lot of strikes.
“I got my fastball command back,” he said. “When I do that, it’s for sure going to be a good day.”
Russell Martin never really talked to his starting pitcher during tonight’s game. He said he didn’t have to on a night like this — “Just let the young kid do his thing,” Martin said — and Nova made it look easy. He trusted his defense, and his defense made plenty of big plays. Only four outs were hit into the outfield, and the only ball Curtis Granderson fielded all night was a second-inning single that happened to roll his way.
“We were moving the ball up and down, in and out, and he was hitting every spot,” Martin said. “When you’re pitching like that, you’re going to have a good night.”
• Jorge Posada said he went to Girardi after the game to say thank you for sticking with him. Girardi assured Posada that he has no plans of taking him out of the lineup. “I believe his at-bats have been better and that’s the reason I’m putting him out there,” Girardi said. “I believe that he’s going to be productive and hit.”
• Granderson now leads the American League with 10 home runs. Tonight he positively crushed a ball off the lefty starter Matt Harrison. It was Granderson’s fourth homer off a lefty this season, matching his total for last season. “I don’t consider myself a power hitter by any means,” Granderson said. “When you measure me up against the other guys like Alex Rodriguez or Ryan Howard, those guys are 30, 40, 50 pounds heavier than me. I don’t know what it is.”
• Kim Jones brought up the fact that Nova seemed to be talking to A.J. Burnett a lot between innings. Nova said those conversations aren’t always about pitching. He just likes talking to Burnett because Burnett helps him relax.
• Obviously the Yankees are changing their opinion of Granderson against lefties. When Nick Swisher couldn’t play tonight, Granderson was bumped all the way from ninth to second in the order. “Going into this year, we felt he was different against lefties,” Girardi said.
• Will Swisher play tomorrow? “I hope so,” Girardi said.
• Will Granderson play against another lefty tomorrow? “Grandy said he feels great, so I’ll make a decision tomorrow,” Girardi said. “It’s kind of hard to argue with him.”
• Brett Gardner keeps struggling when laying down bunts. “He’s trying,” Girardi said. “The only way to get better at it is to do it.”
• Martin said it was the right call when he was called out at third. “He blocked third base,” Martin said. “I got there before the ball got there, but I never got to the bag. He was blocking it with his leg.”
• Speaking of Martin, every once in a while he says something that lets you know he still thinks it’s pretty cool that he’s playing for the Yankees. Tonight, that moment came while he was talking about the infield defense. “Jeter in the hole with his Jeter play,” Martin said. “I don’t know what they call it. It’s pretty sweet to see from my position.”
Associated Press photos