When the game was over, the Yankees clubhouse opened several minutes later than usual. Even then, the media was informed that Joe Girardi wasn’t ready to be interviewed. The players would talk first, then the manager, an odd flip-flop of usual protocol.
At that point, it became fairly clear that Ivan Nova was probably not the story of the day.
Make no mistake, though, Nova was very good today. Winless since the All-Star break, Nova delivered 7.1 innings with one walk and 10 strikeouts. His first strikeout came on his slider, the one pitch that seemed to be giving him the most trouble recently.
“I think the confidence that I still have in myself, I think that is the key,” Nova said. “I was working hard in the bullpen. I wanted to make sure all my pitches were right and I left the bullpen with a good feel for my work. All of them were working fine.”
It’s true. The slider was a fine pitch today, and Nova’s fastball showed some real pop. But it was Nova’s curveball that really stood out. He was using it to get ahead in the count, using it to induce routine outs and six of his strikeouts came on curveballs.
“My curveball is my natural pitch,” Nova said. “I can work with the curveball really well. Even when I struggle with the curve in the bullpen, I can throw my curveball for a strike when I need it. Today it was an unbelievable pitch. I’m glad I had it today.”
Nova slightly altered his slider grip leading into this start, tucking it farther back in his hand, but he did nothing to the curveball. Although the slider has become a go-to strikeout pitch in the past year or so, the curveball remains a point of absolute confidence for Nova.
“With the lefties, I was thinking sometimes you’re trying to bounce it,” Nova said. “They don’t go for it, so I was trying to throw a little bit down, no bounce, really inside to a lefty. It was good. … The first slider that I threw was a strikeout, and I could see the movement that the slider had. For me, it got to make me feel more good about it. I got good break on the slider. The grip that we’ve got, the work that we put in was working. After that, I was just trying to see if I had another pitch, and the curveball was the other pitch. The game was telling us what to do and that’s exactly what I did today. I just followed my game.”
• Casey McGehee had his welcome-to-the-Yankees moment with that three-run homer in the fourth. He later doubled in the game. “I was trying to force that to happen, especially the first couple times out there, trying to do way too much every at-bat,” McGehee said. “I think I’m making a conscious effort to slow down, relax, and realize that even though it’s a new organization, new team, it’s still a game I’ve been playing for a little while.”
• More from McGehee: “I’ve been working with K-Long quite a bit on some stuff at the plate. I’m trying to be stubborn with it, stick with. I think it’s going to help. It was nice to feel what it felt like when it’s the way it’s supposed to be.”
• Derek Jeter’s sixth-inning double gave him an A.L.-leading 150 hits for the season. He’s the second player in baseball history to reach 150 hits in 17 straight seasons. The other is Hank Aaron.
• Dave Robertson threw one pitch tonight and ended the eighth inning with a double play.
• Rafael Soriano followed Robertson with a scoreless ninth to pick up his 28th save.
• A little bit more on the Sabathia injury: “We’ve been talking about it all day, just trying to decide what we were going to do,” Girardi said. “It’s not any worse than it was after the first start, but our concern is it didn’t go away. As far as concern, it’s pretty low. We were deciding should we just skip him a start, should we DL him? What do we do in this instance? We’ve decided that we’re going to DL him. We’ll have to name a starter on Monday; I don’t have that right now. We’ll have to decide what we’re going to do. As far as the concern, it’s pretty low-level, because it’s not like it got any worse. He wants to pitch on Monday, which I’m not surprised, because he said he’s dealt with it before. We just decided, let’s try to get it cleaned up now.”
• Girardi said he’s not sure how many pitches David Phelps can throw at this point. His last minor league start came on July 14 when he threw 103 pitches. Phelps hasn’t thrown more than 36 pitches since then.
• It’s worth noting that Adam Warren is scheduled to start tomorrow’s Triple-A game. I have to think he would have been a call-up candidate — either as a spot starter or a long man — had the Yankees not agreed to a deal with Derek Lowe.
• Although Girardi said there are no more tests scheduled for Sabathia, he will see a doctor in New York on Monday. “He could possibly have an injection, cortisone injection,” Girardi said. “That’s not uncommon.”
• The plan is for Sabathia to come off the DL to start in Cleveland on August 24.
• After all this rotation talk, the final word actually goes to McGehee: “One thing I’ve noticed here is everybody expects to win. So it’s not usually a big hurrah crazy or jump up and down moment. We come to the field expecting to win, so definitely, guys make their comments, congratulate and that sort of stuff. But that’s one thing I’ve definitely noticed here. If you’re in there, you’re expected to contribute.”
Associated Press photos