Major League players are rarely sent to the minor leagues when things are going well. They’re sent down because there’s work to be done, and that demotion can be either a banishment or a wake-up call. It can spell the end, or provide an opportunity for regular work to adjust, refine and earn another shot.
Ivan Nova earned another shot this year.
“That was the idea,” Joe Girardi said. “We’ve seen him do it before. He got in a little rut in the second half last year, he had a hard time getting out of it. He had some good games in there, but our expectation was he could find it again and get going, and that’s what he’s done, and he’s been important to us.”
At a time when CC Sabathia has struggled to keep the Yankees in games, Nova has done the opposite. He’s basically done as much as possible to win games single-handedly. In his past 56.1 innings, he has a 2.08 ERA. He’s pitched at least seven innings in each of his past five starts. Limited run support has certainly hurt, but he’s done enough to win low-scoring games like this one.
“I’ve been feeling really good,” Nova said. “Like I’ve said in the past, I don’t remember the last time I felt the way I feel now. I’m working hard to try to repeat it every time. I’m trying to go out there and do my job, try to help the team to win games.”
Couple of hits in the first inning, and Nova got out of it. Runner at third with one out in the second, he got the ground ball and the strike out he needed. Leadoff double in the seventh, another strikeout to end the inning and leave runners at first and second.
“I cannot let that guy score, especially that we’re not scoring that many runs,” Nova said. “I had to keep that game close. I had a lefty coming up, my two-seamer was working really good with the lefties, and my curveball was my strikeout pitch again. I said, ‘OK, let’s go for a strikeout and not let that guy score.’”
• According to ESPN, Major League Baseball is planning to announce a suspension through the 2014 season for Alex Rodriguez. The announcement will come on Monday, and commissioner Bud Selig is expected to keep Rodriguez from playing while appealing the decision, citing the best interests of the game.
• Of course, Rodriguez is planning to play on Monday. After taking a walk in all four plate appearances of a Double-A game tonight, Rodriguez said he’s still planning to fly to Chicago to meet the Yankees.
• Obviously there’s not much the Yankees can say about the Rodriguez situation until a suspension is announced. Girardi confirmed that he expects to have Rodriguez in Chicago, and that there’s been nothing physical — no injury or anything — to change those terms. In perhaps a poor choice of words, Girardi said, “I don’t foresee any problems.”
• Of course, Girardi might not foresee any problems because of this: “I don’t know how it will happen,” he said. “I don’t tweet, so I’m usually the last person to find out.” Twitter would have probably blown his mind the past few days.
• As for guys who were able to help the Yankees offense tonight, it was obviously Curtis Granderson’s show with the two-run homer and the late insurance run. “It was good,” Granderson said. “Second game back obviously still have a lot to work on. Kevin Long and myself are going to do as much swinging and hitting as we can to try to close the gap of the repetition that I’ve lost up to this point. You can’t simulate game stuff but we can just get reps, reps, reps, without overdoing it. That’s what we’re going to try to do. Sure enough, I’ll get with him tomorrow to keep swinging.”
• Granderson was, in fact, doing a lot of early work with Long today. “Just getting repetition, getting back to what he remembered seeing,” Granderson said. “One of the tough things when you do the rehab and you’re coming back, you’ve kind of forgot where you were. You’re just trying to get a feel. The feel that I had was completely different than what he remembered. So we had to go and just reformulate it a little bit, get back to mechanically some of the things that he saw before I went out.”
• Granderson has played in 10 games this season, and three of them have been multi-hit games. The home run was his first go-ahead RBI since October 3 of last season. In five career games against the Padres,he has a .421 batting average.
• Jayson Nix had the ninth-inning RBI. It was his first off-the-bench RBI of the season. Last time he had an RBI in a game he didn’t start was July 25 of last season in Seattle when he hit a three-run double off the bench.
• Derek Jeter was available to pinch hit, but Girardi seemed happy to have stayed away from him. Same plan tomorrow. Still shooting for Monday.
• Nova on what was working tonight: “All my swings and misses were with the curveball,” he said. “It was really good today as it has been in the past. I had good command of the strike zone and was working both sides of the plate to righties and lefties. That allowed me to get quick outs.”
• Final word goes to Granderson: “I think if anything we have to find out whoever’s got this voodoo doll and just keeps poking at it and ripping at it. It’s just one of those things that, man, you don’t know what’s going on. At the same time, anybody that’s been switched and interchanged with this organization from top to bottom has just come in and had to do what we need to do. But not do too much if that makes sense. Just got to come in there and make the basic play. That’s fielding a ground ball, if it’s throwing, if it’s pitching, if that’s getting a hit. Do what you’re capable of.”
Associated Press photos