For such an unpredictable pitcher, today’s game was remarkably familiar. Ivan Nova wasn’t awful — in fact, there were times his stuff looked great — but he wasn’t very good either. He put a lot of guys on base (but got out of some jams). He took a no decision (but started the letdown that caused the loss). He more or less gave the Yankees a chance to win (but not nearly well enough to carry them to a series sweep).
“I’m not throwing strikes and that’s making me mad,” Nova said. “I know I can do better than this. … If I throw a good fastball, the next one is — I’m not going to say the word because it’s on TV, but I think you have an idea what I’m going to say.”
When the sixth inning started, Nova was already had 90 pitches and had let the leadoff hitter reach base in four of five innings, but Joe Girardi stuck with him for a fairly basic and obvious reason.
“I thought he actually threw the ball pretty well today,” Girardi said. “But that’s an inning that we need to get some outs. … He’s got to be able to give us more than 90 pitches.”
This was the first time in three starts that Nova allowed more than one extra-base hit — two doubles, including his last pitch of the game — and he’d generally done a good job of limiting the damage heading into that sixth inning. But with Nova, it’s becoming hard to predict what he’s going to do from game to game, inning to inning, and pitch to pitch.
“He’ll throw one pitch down and away, and the next pitch will be up and in,” Chris Stewart said. “Obviously the results are not what you’re looking for in being able to repeat it, but we’ve got to get there. And when he’s able to repeat it, he’s going to be real good.”
The Yankees have seen Nova when he’s real good. They also left him off last year’s playoff roster for a reason. It’s easiest to blame the mechanics, but Nova said that’s not it.
“I feel good with my mechanics,” he said. “I’m just not repeating my pitches, repeating my pitches when I have to. … I threw like six, five walks. That’s too many in a ballgame. It’s not only the sixth inning, not throwing strikes. I’m just not with myself right now. We’re going to continue working, there’s no doubt about it. I feel like I can do better than this — I know I can do better than this — so I just have to go and try to find a way to do it.”
• Boone Logan faced one batter, who sent a broken-bat floater into shallow left-center field for a weak single. Of course, Logan took the loss as wins and losses continues to be the best way to measure a pitcher.
• David Phelps was charged with a blown save. He also allowed a pivotal broken-bat hit — got in on the handle against Brett Lawrie, who managed to keep a sharply hit ball just inside fair territory for a go-ahead double. This was a second straight rocky outing for Phelps, coming immediately after a terrific four innings of relief last Saturday. “It’s frustrating,” Phelps said. “I’m kind of getting behind guys without anybody on, and when I’ve got guys on, I’ve really got to try to bear down. I’m just not making pitches. I’m not putting guys away when I need to be.”
• Phelps on the home run to J.P. Arencibia: “Fastball that was just middle, center cut (after) trying to go away. Just got to do better. That’s all it boils down to. Just not getting the job done right now.”
• Nova on showing his frustration (and whether bad pitches carry over): “It’s not that it affects the whole game, just with that pitch and forget it. Make the next pitch. It’s not that every time I hit my glove they’re going to take me out of the game. I just want to make that pitch. I feel mad but I forget it. Make the next pitch.”
• Down four runs, down to the final out, Travis Hafner tried to bunt for a hit. He went after a breaking ball, kind of jabbed at it and sent a horrible bunt back to the pitcher. “I don’t have a problem with that,” Girardi said. “He just bunted it too far towards the pitcher. Whatever a guy’s comfortable doing, I’m OK with it. We need base runners. Now, if it’s 6-4, I wouldn’t have been OK with it.”
• Hafner said he couldn’t remember ever bunting for a hit, but he had almost the entire left side of the infield and a single was basically just as good as a home run in that situation. He kind of shrugged it off as a worth-a-shot situation.
• Speaking of which, Hafner stole a base today. It’s his first of the season. Told afterward that it was the 10th steal of his career, Hafner smiled. “Milestone,” he said.
• While Hafner was bunting and stealing bases, Chris Stewart was homering to preserve the Yankees streak of eight straight road games with a home run. “Fastball, middle in, 3-2 count,” Stewart said. “I knew he was going to come after me. Fortunately was able to put a good swing on it.” The Yankees haven’t had a road home run streak this long since 2002.
• Vernon Wells has reached base in seven straight games. This was his sixth multi-hit game of the season, and he had seven hits in this three-game series. After a terrific catch that resulted in a double play, Wells tipped his cap to the Toronto crowd that has booed him throughout the series.
• Robinson Cano has reached base in 15 of 17 games this season.
• Girardi said it’s likely Kevin Youkilis will play against Tampa Bay. “He’s better,” Girardi said. “I think there’s a pretty decent possibility he’ll be a player for us tomorrow.”
• The Yankees are now 3-7 when the opposition scores first and 1-7 when losing after six innings.
• Big picture final word from Girardi: “Our goal is to take every series, and if you can do that, you’ll be in good shape come September. It’s not the way you want to leave, but we won two out of three here. This place can be tough to play and our guys did a pretty good job.”
Associated Press photos