Pretty easy to make a case that Ivan Nova’s previous start in Boston was his worst of the year. It was a huge game for the Yankees, who were desperate to avoid a sweep, and Nova fell flat. With five days to think about it, Nova went to video to try to find a reason for the letdown.
He came away thinking he might have been tipping pitches based on glove placement.
“Sometimes you put it like this (sideways), sometimes you put it like that (straight up and down),” Nova said. “You don’t try to stay in one position. I don’t know if that was the problem, but I was watching the video and sometimes I do (change the glove) a little bit.”
After working in the bullpen to make sure his pitches stay hidden, Nova delivered a complete game shutout this afternoon. It was his second of the year, and it came in another game the Yankees desperately needed to win.
“Could have been (tipping pitches in Boston),” catcher Chris Stewart said. “They were spitting on some good pitches. But he also threw a lot more strikes today, it felt like, and he was attacking the hitter a lot more. I think that was the difference. That’s why he threw so well today. Whether they knew what was coming in Boston or not, who knows, but hopefully we get a chance to play them in the playoffs and he gets a chance to redeem himself.”
Nova got 14 ground ball outs today (he took full advantage of Brendan Ryan’s sparkling defense). He also went all nine innings on just 108 pitches, suggesting he economical and effective, getting the Giants to hit into outs rather than letting them foul off pitches and extend at-bats. Joe Girardi talked about his fastball location, and Stewart raved about his ability to throw the curveball for strikes.
Tipping pitches might have been the problem in Boston. Might also be that Nova simply pitched a better game this afternoon.
“I was throwing strikes and working inside on righties and lefties,” Nova said. “I was making them swing early. Doing that, I threw strikes. I made my defense work. … I don’t really have to go out there and strike out everybody. I get the quick outs, so I kept pitching that way.”
• The Rays have already won today and the Orioles have lost. That means the Yankees have jumped ahead of Baltimore in the wild card standings, and they’ll gain a game on either Kansas City or Texas (they play each other tonight). A Cleveland loss to Houston would help. “We have to win ballgames regardless of what they’re doing,” Stewart said. “We have to take care of business out here on the field. If other teams want to help us out, that’s fine, but we’ve got to take care of business first.”
• Hard to think anyone predicted this sort of impact from Alfonso Soriano. He has 17 home runs and 50 RBI since joining the Yankees. He’s had 35 RBI in just 26 games at Yankee Stadium since the trade. “We are sure thankful to have it,” Girardi said. “He’s been special since he’s got here, and provided a lot of punch in our lineup and some really good protection for Robbie.”
• The Robertson Cano factor, Soriano said, is a big one. “I’m not the only guy that they have to throw a nasty pitch (against),” Soriano said. “They have three or four more guys in the lineup. They have to work hard with those guys too, so that gives me more concentration and more pitches to hit because (of) those guys. (Pitchers) get tired when they have to face too many because they’re facing Alex and Cano before me.”
• Soriano is one of only five players all time to have at least 50 RBI with two different teams in one season. The others: Matt Holliday (2009-OAK/STL), Manny Ramirez (2008-BOS/LAD), Carlos Beltran (2004-KC/HOU), and David Justice (2000-CLE/NYY).
• Eduardo Nunez also went deep today, his first home runs since August 7, snapping a 108-at-bat homerless stretch. It was his first home run at Yankee Stadium since September 15, 2012, more than a year ago.
• Another hit for Brendan Ryan, but that’s hardly what stands out about his game. He had another terrific day in the field, especially on a play to his left going behind second base and making a flip to Cano covering. “We were pretty aware of what he was defensively,” Girardi said. “We had seen it against ourselves enough times that we were pretty aware. He had quite a day.”
• This was the Yankees 10th shutout win of the season, their most in one year since 2008. Each of the Yankees past three shutouts have been started and won by Nova.
• Nova joins Hiroki Kuroda in 2012 and Mike Mussina in 2005, 2002 and 2001 (when he had three) as the only Yankees with multiple complete-game shutouts in one season since the start of 1999.
• More from Stewart on Nova’s start: “He was able to throw his curveball for strikes, get them to respect that. Then when he throws one in the dirt, they’re going to chase because they have to respect the curveball for a strike. I think that’s a difference maker when he throwing that in the strike zone. His two-seamer in the strike zone kind of keeps them off balance and he’s able to get a lot of early contact, ground ball outs.
• The Yankees have scored 11 runs and hit four home runs in theirs past two games. They combined to score just nine runs with one homer in their previous five games.
• Final word goes to Soriano: “If we play like we played last night and today, we can win all seven games that are left. But we try not to put too much pressure on us. Just play one game at a time like we played today. Come back tomorrow with the same energy and try to win tomorrow.”
Associated Press photos