Fifth inning. Bases loaded. Two outs. Nova thought Pagan took a good swing at a fastball earlier in the count, so he went with three straight curveballs and got the strikeout that stranded the runners and made Nova’s night a good one.
“Last year, I get men on base, and I go right to my fastball,” Nova said. “Everybody can hit a fastball, so now I use some more of my pitches, so I think that’s what got me out of trouble.”
This is a big part of the reason Nova needs to stay in the Yankees rotation: He’s getting better.
Last night wasn’t his best night, but it was proof that he’s learning to pitch. Nova let opponents hit .394 with runners in scoring position last season, and he was unreliable beyond the fourth inning or so. Those things are not remotely true this year. In terms of ERA, the sixth and seventh innings have been his best, and he’s been dominant with runners in scoring position (especially with two outs).
“I think he just had a lot of experiences last year, and this year he has found ways to get outs and to make his pitches,” Joe Girardi said. “I think improving his repertoire with the slider and the changeup has also helped. He’s got different pitches to go to, but I think it’s just part of the process of learning to pitch in those tough situations.”
Before last night’s game, Girardi said there was nothing Nova could do, good or bad, to affect his status in the rotation. Brian Cashman said the same thing — “He’s not pitching for anything tonight, for me,” Cashman said — and Nova said after the game that he wasn’t thinking about the Yankees unsettled rotation.
“I’m just thinking, do my job,” he said.
Nova looks like he could do this job for quite a while. He doesn’t look like a guy who needs to be bumped to the bullpen or shuttled to Triple-A.
Associated Press photo