For two completely different reasons, Joe Girardi and Ivan Nova weren’t thrilled with Joe West after Friday night’s 7-6 walkoff win over the Tigers.
Girardi didn’t appreciate the combative home plate ump’s decorum in the seventh inning. That’s when Girardi was tossed for the 18th time in his career and 13th time as Yankee manager.
He had hopped from the dugout to argue a called third strike on Russell Martin and kicked some dirt around in an otherwise subdued protest. But West flashed a few smiles and eventually ejected Girardi, who was none too pleased with the way it all unfolded.
“I just didn’t care for the way it went,” Girardi said. “These games are very serious. Every game is serious stuff. That’s how I approach it. You’ve seen too many times where one game costs a team a playoff spot.”
It was West’s strike zone that drew Nova’s ire. The young right-hander felt he threw low strikes that West called balls. He subsequently elevated his pitches and was hit.
The Tigers touched up Nova for six earned runs on 11 hits in 5 1/3 innings. He never quite blamed West, but it clearly had some impact on his command.
“I was trying to put it higher and that’s when I got into trouble,” Nova said. “My fastball especially, if you don’t throw it where you want to throw it you can have a lot of problems. Today, I got hit, but I was feeling pretty good.”
• Tight strike zone or not, Nova’s charmed existence on the mound continued. He left down 6-4 and in line for the loss, but the bullpen pitched 3 2/3 scoreless and the offense rallied for three runs. That kept Nova’s winning streak to live another day. He remains unbeaten in his last 20 starts dating to 6/10/11. And he is still just one win shy of tying Roger Clemens’ club record for 16 straight winning decisions.
• Yes, Nova is 3-0, but his ERA ballooned to 5.18 and his WHIP an unsightly 1.68.
• Yankee Stadium continued to vex Justin Verlander, who is now 0-2 with a 4.50 ERA in five starts here. He’s allowed 12 earned runs in 24 innings after surrendering four in six innings tonight. He also surrendered his first home runs of the year to Alex Rodriguez (fourth) and Russell Martin (fifth).
“That’s a real tough lineup to get through,” Jim Leyland said. “I didn’t think he really had his off-speed stuff going well tonight, particularly his changeup. He just didn’t seem to have a real good feel for it tonight, at least that’s the way it looked anyway. He left a couple of fastballs over the plate where you can reach the seats here in right field. They might have been out almost anywhere. It’s a pretty good setup for guys like A-Rod that can hit it out that way, and Derek. He still pitched, obviously, well enough to win.”
Here’s Martin on his team’s apparent hold over one of the game’s best…
• Of course, after scoring off the Detroit bullpen to tie it, the Yankees won by virtue of a wild pitch and a passed ball in the ninth. Derek Jeter said he couldn’t see the ball get passed Alex Avila on the 2-0 pitch to Rodriguez, so he actually retreated back slightly at first. A-Rod then waived him home so Jeter took off. He narrowly beat the throw by Avila to the plate.
“That’s how you win games sometimes,” Jeter said. “You have to be aggressive, but we caught a break.”
Listen to Jeter and A-Rod explain the final play…
• Lost amid the wild finish was the end of Jeter’s 15-game hitting streak. It ended with an 0-for-4 night that dropped his average 20 points to an even .400.
• The Yanks now have a remarkable seven comebacks out of their 11 wins this season. Their offense has carried them, and had to again tonight. Their starters entered tonight next-to-last in baseball with a 5.73 ERA and 30th with a 1.52 WHIP.
I asked Girardi if living on this edge concerns him.
“You don’t want to fight that battle every night,” he said. “But I think our starting pitching will get better.”
• Player notes: Rodriguez hit his 633rd home run and his 288th as a Yankee. He passed Bernie Williams for sole possession of sixth place in club history, but next is Yogi Berra at 358. … Curtis Granderson reached base safely for his 18th straight game. … Nick Swisher now has 13 extra-base hits after picking up a pair of doubles. He did not have 13 XBHs until 6/14 of last year. … The bullpen’s line was superb: 3.2 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 4 K. It has now held opponents scoreless in seven of its last nine games. … Mariano Rivera earned the win and appeared in his 1,050th game in the process, tying Kent Tekulve for eighth on baseball’s all-time list.