“It doesn’t matter if I get a strikeout or not,” he said. “I used to pitch with a lot of ground balls. This year I haven’t. I guess I’ve just got to go back and do exactly the same thing as last year, getting my ground balls and a strikeout when you need it.”
Last season, a little more than 52 percent of the balls hit off Nova were grounders. This year, it’s a little more than 45 percent. Obviously he had swing-and-miss stuff today, but when the Reds hit him, they drove the ball. No hit was bigger than Joey Votto’s three-run homer in the fifth when Nova left a slider in the middle of the plate. Nova’s allowed six home runs in his past four starts, and he’s allowed 10 for the season. He gave up 13 all of last year.
Recent production from the offense has generated most of the coverage this week — for obvious reasons — but Nova is also trending the wrong way lately.
“I’m just falling behind hitters,” he said. “When you’re falling behind, you have to go to the middle, and when you make a mistake, they hit it hard. Especially when you’re walking guys. They are really good hitters. The last couple of times, like the other day in Baltimore, I gave up two homers with two changeups. It’s something we’ve got to do, go back to work and try to find a way to make the right pitch.”
Russell Martin said the difference between Nova last year and Nova this year isn’t all that noticeable from behind the plate.
“There’s not much of a difference between last year and this year,” Martin said. “The difference is maybe the fastball being up a little bit more. I don’t really see much of a difference between him last year and this year. Same velocity. I think maybe he’s a bit more consistent with his offspeed pitches, but it’s the same Nova.”
• Before Nick Swisher’s RBI single in the ninth inning, the Yankees were hitless in their previous 22 at-bats with runners in scoring position. The topic has pretty much been exhausted at this point, but Swisher and Jayson Nix began to change the story in the ninth inning. One more hit and the Yankees would have at least forced extra innings. “We just didn’t get the last hit that we needed to try to put them away,” Joe Girardi said. “It’s good that we were able to come back, but it’s frustrating that you get so close and you lose.”
• With the tying run in scoring position, the Yankees had their batting average leader and home run leader coming to the plate, but Derek Jeter grounded to third and Curtis Granderson grounded to first. “Anytime there’s guys in scoring position you want to get the job done,” said Russell Martin, who struck out in the ninth. “Really, you don’t think about numbers when you’re up there hitting. You try to get a good pitch. As of late we haven’t been getting the job done. It just takes one day for that to change. We’ve got great hitters on this team all through the lineup so I don’t think it’s going to stay this way for too much longer.”
• David Phelps was kicking himself for throwing that ball away in the eighth. He’d just made a great diving catch and knew right away that he’d messed up by trying to rush the throw to first. He didn’t get his body set — he kind of sidearmed the ball with his chest pointing directly at the bag — and Nick Swisher never had a chance to catch it. The error helped the Reds score an insurance run that mattered in the end.
• Nova said his ankle felt fine all night. “No problem,” he said.
• Nova is the first Yankee since Don Brennan in 1933 to have at least 12 strikeouts while also allowing at least five earned runs.
• Jeter extended his hitting streak to eight games. He also has an eight-game interleague hitting streak.
• This was the eighth three-hit game of Jayson Nix career. He has two homers in his past 12 at-bats. Before that, he’d gone 45 at-bats without a home run in the big leagues.
• Clay Rapada got the Yankees first pickoff of the season.
• Girardi said pregame that Brett Gardner would see the team doctor today. Turns out, he’s not seeing him until tomorrow. Gardner doesn’t know what test he’ll have done — he’s supposed to see the doctor at the Stadium, but he said he could be sent for an MRI at the hospital — but Gardner is hoping that he’ll be given the green light to begin swinging a bat within a day or two. He hasn’t picked up a bat since coming out of that Triple-A game almost two weeks ago.
• According to Elias, this is the 10th straight season that the Yankees have had a stretch of at least 20 hitless at-bats with a runner in scoring position.
Associated Press photos