A year ago, Ivan Nova was the Yankees No. 2 starter in the playoffs. Today, it’s not certain he’ll make the postseason roster, much less the postseason rotation. If he makes another start this season it would come in the next-to-last game of the year, but Joe Girardi’s commitment to Nova making that start was lukewarm at best.
“I can’t think about that,” Girardi said. “I wish I could worry about that now, but I can’t.”
Can’t worry about that because there’s a lot to worry about between now and then. The Yankees lead is back down to one game. If they’d won, it would have been two games for the first time since September 2. Nova and the Yankees couldn’t beat a last-place team, and now they’re reeling again. When a division race is this tight, the feeling really can change that quickly.
“Especially right now, the position that we’re in, I don’t feel good about it,” Nova said. “We want to win every day, and I’m not doing that. … I think I’m doing everything possible. I’m watching my videos, working really hard between starts, throwing my bullpens the way I want to throw them. I’m working physically and mentally, I’m just not getting the results that I want.”
Everyone seemed to agree that Nova had a great curveball today — “Better than I’ve ever seen it,” Russell Martin said — but there was also no argument that Nova has a been awful since the All-Star break. He had that one strong start when he came back from the shoulder injury, but his past two have been ugly. Girardi had said this afternoon that tonight was an important game — important for the Yankees, important for Nova — but the result was a letdown for everyone.
“That’s why you’re here, why you play the whole year, to be in the postseason,” Nova said. “… I want to be on the roster. I want to help the team to win games in any position. I just want to be there.”
The team has to get there first.
• Goes without saying that this loss wasn’t strictly on Nova’s shoulders. The Yankees were shutout and held to only five hits, all of which came from either Russell Martin or Robinson Cano. “That’s the first time we’ve seen (Brandon Morrow) all year,” Nick Swisher said. “He’s a guy who throws super hard, you know, 97, 98. Tonight he really felt like he wasn’t throwing like that. He was throwing a lot more offspeed pitches, working both sides of the plate, changing speeds.”
• Girardi’s take on the offense: “I didn’t see us chase a ton of pitches, we just didn’t get any hits tonight.”
• If there’s a bright side, it’s Cano, who looks like his bat is starting to show some life again. Of course, that doesn’t mean a whole lot on a night like this.
• Of course, can’t mention Cano without mentioning him getting doubled off at first base in the fourth inning after Anthony Gose made a terrific catch at the wall. “He probably got a little bit too far, but it’s a great play by Gose,” Girardi said. “Robbie was maybe a little aggressive, but you don’t want our guys being passive, and he made a great play.”
• Alex Rodriguez drew a walk and was hit by a pitch. Girardi said he expects Rodriguez to play third base tomorrow. “We’ll see,” Rodriguez said. “We’ll see how this thing wakes up and talk to Joe tomorrow.”
• Maybe he was just backing his pitcher, but Martin was asked three times about Nova’s start and he kept saying that it wasn’t all that bad. “It wasn’t a great performance,” Martin said. “But I liked his stuff. We didn’t get the result we wanted, but I think he’s going to be able to compete. I’m not really worried about him, seeing that curveball. The only thing you have to eliminate right there is making mistakes with his slider. For me, I think if he just tries not to throw the slider for a strike, he’ll be better off. That’s it. It’s a simple adjustment.”
• Nova on his stuff tonight: “The curveball was good the whole night. Encarnacion got two hits with the slider, I threw a fastball that stayed up and he’s a good breaking ball hitter. I know he can hit the curveball, so I wanted to go with the slider and do something else. Unfortunately I couldn’t get him out,.”
• The Lawrie home run came on a fastball. “I don’t think it was a strike. He just left a fastball up and Lawrie jumped all over it. I think it was above the zone, but he got to it, got the barrel to it, and got it out.”
• I honestly didn’t think Aardsma looked too bad tonight. He gave up the home run, and his velocity wasn’t quite as high as it has been in the past, but for a guy who hadn’t pitched in the big leagues in two years, I thought he was fine. More or less what I expected. Clearly not 100 percent, but not a total reclamation project either.
• Blown chance to gain a half game in the standings without watching the scoreboard? “I just think the result’s frustrating,” Martin said. “It doesn’t really matter what the outcome is because of what other teams are doing. I’m not really concerned about other teams. I’m just concerned with our team.”
• Final word goes to Rodriguez: “We want to win every game, but you look at a game like we lost a couple of nights ago, obviously that’s a lot more frustrating when we feel we have a stranglehold on that game and kind of lost it late. Today, you kind of turn the page and come back tomorrow and try to win a game.”
Associated Press photos