Joe Girardi and Russell Martin agreed: This was the best Ivan Nova looked all season. His slider was a real weapon, and he was hitting his spots with his fastball. Girardi said he makes no decisions based on one game, but this one game was pretty hard to ignore.
“Now I have to scratch my head a little more, don’t I?” Girardi said. “It’s a great thing to have, a lot of pitchers throwing the ball well. It’s a great problem to have. It’s finding spots for all of them and how you go about it, that’s something we have to determine.”
What does Nova think will happen next?
“I think I have a game in five days no matter if I pitch here or anywhere,” Nova said. “That’s what I’ve got my mind on. Four days to start working hard again and pitch in five days.”
Nova’s attitude through this entire situation has been pretty amazing. He said it’s been easy to block out the distractions — “I’m a happy guy,” he said — but it’s hard ignore the possibilities. A six-man rotation is hard to figure out under any circumstance, and it’s especially difficult when there’s an off day coming up and some veteran pitchers clearly prefer a regular five-day routine.
Regardless of whether he thinks about it when he’s on the mound, Nova clearly knows that his spot is uncertain, but today he put together one of the finest pitching performances the Yankees have seen all season.
“The first thing is my game,” Nova said. “I always say, if you pitch a good game, you still have a chance to stay with the team and the rotation. The first thing that you have to the field with is a good mindset that you’re going to do you’re job, and you’re going to win a game… When you have a day like today, I’m not going to lie, it’s hard to think that you have to go down or anything like that, but I’m trying to be quiet and trying to keep my mind clear.”
One other thing Girardi said: “It was tough to send him down the first time.”
One other thing Nova said. “I’m happy right now because I win today. I’m not frustrated at all. I keep waiting, and hopefully I stay here.”
And here’s Girardi.
• Heading into a weekend series in Boston, the Yankees and Red Sox and now tied for the first time since June 22. The Yankees have a share of first place for the first time since July 7. “I think it says that we’ve been playing well,” Girardi said. “We’ve been chasing them for a while now, so it says a lot about this club and what we’ve been through, how we’ve overcome some things. It is significant.”
• The Yankees have matched their longest winning streak of the season. The Red Sox have gone 4-4 in their past eight games, and their loss tonight against the Indians cost them a one-game lead in the division.
• This was the Yankees first four-game sweep on the road since winning five games in Boston in 2006.
• Girardi said he’ll talk to Brian Cashman tonight and tomorrow and could have a move to announce before tomorrow’s game, possibly to add a bench player. “We’ll discuss it tonight, we’ll discuss it tomorrow and we’ll decide what we’re going to do,” Girardi said. “You don’t necessarily have to make a move, but we’ll talk about it. We’ll talk with Brian and talk it over.”
• Girardi did say that, in theory, Phil Hughes could be available out of the bullpen this weekend. Obviously if he were used in relief it would knock him out of Tuesday’s start. Not saying that’s likely, just that Girardi said it’s theoretically possible that Hughes could be used that way.
• Russell Martin’s evaluation of Nova’s night: “Today was the best I’ve seen him, absolutely. He was executing almost every pitch. He didn’t really miss much, and when he missed, he missed in a good spot. I just like his attitude out there. He’s focused. He’s competitive, and it’s every pitch he’s in the game. I like it. I appreciate it.”
• The one run that scored off Nova might not have scored if not for a botched pitchout. Martin corrected guessed that the runner was going, but Nova’s pitchout was high and over the plate. Nova said he got the sign, just missed his location. He said it’s the second time it’s happened to him this season, and he seriously — I think he was serious — wants to work on pitchouts in the bullpen to make sure he doesn’t mess up another one.
• The Yankees homered seven times in this series and they outscored the White Sox 34-11.
• Robinson Cano homered in back-to-back games fort he first time since June 14-15 in Texas. he hit .467 with seven RBI and five runs this series.
• Martin matched a career-high with four RBI.
• Martin’s three-run homer in the ninth was an absolute bomb. Where does it rank among the longest home runs he’s ever hit? “I’m not sure,” Martin said. “It’s up there. I don’t hit them that far that often, but that one felt good, for sure.”
• The music played in the clubhouse postgame: Lean On Me from Nick Swisher’s new album.
Associated Press photos