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Nova takes his second turn against the Tigers

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Ivan Nova’s first start of the year came on April 4, the day after the Yankees season-opening series against the Tigers. His sixth and seventh starts of the year came immediately before and immediately after a four-game series in Detroit.

In other words, before Game 1 of the division series, the Tigers only look at Nova came in May of 2010, when Nova pitched two innings of relief at Comerica Park in his big league debut.

“I think anytime you see a pitcher for the first time you’re really not sure,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “I think we really got out of the strike zone a little more in this series than I had hoped we would. Hopefully now that we’ve seen him we’ll have a little better idea the second time around. I think that usually holds true. So we’ll see how that plays out. But he’s good.”

[3]That’s part of Nova’s challenge tonight.

He started getting in trouble in Game 1 when the heart of the Tigers order faced him a third time. Two singles and a walk against his last three hitters that night might have been fatigue, it might have been a small bump in the road, and it might have been a sign that the Tigers were starting to figure him out.

“They were real aggressive,” Nova said. “They don’t see me before. It was different. I know, like, they saw me the other day (and) they got another mindset. It’s going to be a good day. I know more (about) the hitters now, and I got late chance to make a mistake. I’m waiting to see tomorrow how they come.”

Good pitching, though, is supposed to beat good hitting. And when Nova’s at the top of his game, he’s pretty tough for anyone to hit.

“A pitcher is who he is,” Joe Girardi said. “I don’t think you abandon who you are because a team is seeing you again. You go through that all the time when you are playing your own division. Everybody knows what he’s got. The bottom line is, he has to make his pitches. He’s got to use them all. He’s got to pitch inside. He’s got to get a breaking ball going and use both sides of the plate and elevate and throw down in the zone. But I don’t think you have to abandon what you did the time before. If you make your pitches, most of the time you’re going to get people out.”

Associated Press photos