After giving up nine runs in back-to-back games, the Yankees needed Ivan Nova to cool down the hot White Sox bats, and the young right hander complied. Nova did more than give the Yankees another well pitched ball game, however…he also gave them options.
Although Nova was eye opening in his first major league start on Monday versus Toronto, he was even more impressive today. Whereas Nova featured a mediocre curve ball in his first start, this time around, it more resembled the plus pitch that scouting reports had advertised. In addition to his breaking pitch having more bite, Nova was also able to throw it for strikes (54% of curves were thrown for strikes, compared to 33% last time out), making it the perfect complement for his fastball, which once again averaged 94 mph. Of his seven strike outs, three came on the curve (two looking) and four on the fastball. Because both pitches were working so well, Nova was able to shelve his hard change for most of the game, indicating that the young hurler has the poise to make adjustments based on what he brings to the mound.
Ivan Nova’s Pitch Breakdown
|Avg. Speed||Max Speed||Count||Strikes||Percentage|
By giving up only one run in 5 2/3 innings, Nova was able to preserve a narrow lead that was built by another Marcus Thames home run in the second and a Brett Gardner single in the third. Because of Joe Girardi’s premature hook, however, the Yankees still needed 3 1/3 scoreless innings from a bullpen that was hit around in the previous game. Proving that last night was the exception, a trio of Yankees relievers carried the ball to Mariano Rivera, who slammed the door in the ninth for his 27th save. Along the way, Kerry Wood extended his scoreless streak to 11 innings and lowered his ERA as a Yankee to 0.77. Most impressive, however, was Joba Chamberlain, who topped out at 100 mph while throwing 1 1/3 innings of one-hit relief. It remains to be seen whether Joba will be able to permanently reclaim his eighth inning role, but the embattled reliever has done everything possible to warrant reconsideration.
What shouldn’t get lost during a day dominated by quality pitching was the performance of the much maligned (admittedly, nowhere more than here) Francisco Cervelli. In addition to going 4-4 and scoring the winning run, Cervelli also gunned down pinch runner Brent Lillibridge trying to steal second with no outs in the eighth. Fittingly, when Omar Vizquel popped up to end the game, the ball landed in the waiting glove of Cervelli. Although it really shouldn’t change the Yankees thinking about his role on the team, for one game, Cervelli proved to be a key contributor.
Still, Nova was the real star of the game. In addition to pitching in with two quality starts, Nova has also given Joe Girardi much needed options as he tries to sort out a starting rotation in disarray. After the game, Girardi announced that Ivan Nova would be given another start, which once again will come at the expense of Javier Vazquez because the Yankees manager also revealed that AJ Burnett will be making his next turn. Even though the status quo remains, the emergence of Nova has given the Yankees the flexibility to stabilize the pitching the staff as the team eagerly awaits the return of Andy Pettitte.
More than flexibility, however, Nova has the potential to make a major impact. With today’s win, Nova became the first Yankees starter since Mel Stottlemyre to earn his first major league victory against the White Sox. Why is that interesting? Because after Stottlemyre beat the White Sox on August 12, 1964, he rattled off eight more victories enroot to a 9-3 season. At the time of Stottlemyre’s promotion, the Yankees were 3 ½ games behind the division leading Orioles, but thereafter posted the best record in the league and won another AL Pennant. Although it is unlikely that Nova will play a similar role down the stretch this season, he certainly has the potential to make a positive impact. Of course, the Yankees have to hope nothing further comes of MLB’s reported investigation of Nova’s alleged B12 shot.
Mel Stottlemyre’s 1964 Game Log
- Before the game, the White Sox retired Frank Thomas’ number 35 in an on field ceremony.
- Francisco Cervelli’s 4-4 performance was the first four hit game of his career.
- By earning his first major league, Ivan Nova became the first Yankees rookie starter to win a ball game since Alfredo Aceves beat the Angels on September 9, 2008.
- Before Nova’s victory, the Yankees were the only team in the majors to not have a rookie record a victory.