Yankees’ Dazzling Nova Leaves Cincy Red-Faced

GAME 71

YANKEES 5, REDS 3

Ivan Nova realizes that the Yankees will get starters Phil Hughes and Bartolo Colon back soon and that could mean he could lose his spot in the rotation. On Monday, he seemed to be making a bold statement that he is not coming out of the rotation without a fight.

Nova (7-4) pitched a career-best eight innings, gave up only one run on four hits, walked none and struck out seven as New York swept into Great American Ballpark and downed Cincinnati to win its ninth out of their last 11 games.

Nova threw 70 strikes out of 105 pitches thrown (67% strikes) to tie Michael Pineda of the Seattle Mariners with the most victories by a rookie pitcher in the major leagues.

Nova got all the run support he really needed in the first inning as the Yankees tagged substitute starter Travis Wood (5-5) for four runs on five hits. Wood was moved up a day because right-hander Johnny Cueto had to be scratched from his start because of a stiff neck.

It looked as if Wood would end up with a stiff neck of his own as he kept turning to watch Yankee hits flying past him. Nick Swisher led off the game with a single and Mark Teixeira followed with a single one out later. Alex Rodriguez then opened the seal on the scoring with a single to left to plate Swisher. Robinson Cano followed with an opposite-field double to score Teixeira. Russell Martin’s groundout brought in Rodriguez and Andruw Jones followed with an RBI single to cap the four-run explosion before some of the sellout crowd of 41,173 had sampled their nachos.

The Reds looked as if they were going to answer back quickly when Drew Stubbs singled and stole second and Brandon Phillips singled Stubbs to third. However, Nova used his sinker to induce Joey Votto into a double-play in which Stubbs scored. But Nova stopped the Reds cold after that.

Stubbs reached on a swinging third strike wild pitch from Nova with two out in the third, Paul Janish stroked a two-out single in the fifth and pinch-hitter Fred Lewis singled with two out in the eighth. Nova retired the rest of the batters he faced on 17 groundouts, seven strikeouts and only three fly balls.

Wood, however, did settle down after the first inning and he retired 15 of the next 20 batters he faced. But Nova would not give in to the Reds.

The Yankees scored a run in the seventh inning due to the very giving nature of the Reds. Reliever Jose Arredondo walked Curtis Gramderson. Granderson stole second but was able to take third when Janish dropped a throw from catcher Ryan Hanigan and the ball rolled past him into shallow center-field. Granderson then scored on an Arredondo wild pitch.

The Reds did take advantage of Nova’s departure in the ninth when Phillips singled off Luis Ayala to begin the inning. Boone Logan was summoned to face the lefty Votto but Logan plunked Votto with his first and only delivery. Manager Joe Girardi then decided to go to Mariano Rivera with the tying run on deck.

Rivera retired Jay Bruce on a grounder that moved Phillips to third and Votto to second. Scott Rolen scored Phillips on an infield single and Chris Heisey then scored Votto by beating out what could have been a 1-6-3 double play. But Heisey was ruled safe. But Rivera ended the Reds faint comeback hopes by fanning pinch-hitter Edgar Renteria to notch his 18th save of the season in 21 chances.

With the victory, the Yankees improved their record to 42-29 and they remain 1 1/2 games in back of the first-place Boston Red Sox in the American League East. The Reds are 38-36 on the season.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Nova was never any better this season than he was on Monday night. He had only three three-ball counts and he did not walk any of them. Nova also lowered his ERA to 4.13. It is obvious that when Colon and Hughes do return they will be starters. The question is what will happen to Nova when they come back? On the basis of this effort, it would appear inconceivable they would put him in the bullpen.
  • Rodriguez continues to hit with a 2-for-4 night with a run scored and an RBI. Though Rodriguez admits he is nursing a sore shoulder it is not interfering with his play at all. He also made a nice diving stab to rob Heisey of a hit in the second inning. Rodriguez is hitting .292 with 13 home runs and 44 RBIs.
  • Cano is beginning to get his average back over .300. He also was 2-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI. Cano now has a nine-game hitting streak in which he is 15-for-38 (.395) with two home runs and six RBIs. He is now hitting .295 on the season with 14 home runs and 47 RBIs.
  • Swisher is doing his job in the leadoff spot against left-handers. He was 1-for-3 with a walk and a run scored against Wood. He is 4-for-13 (.308) from the leadoff spot since Derek Jeter was injured.
NAGGING NEGATIVES
  • With David Robertson unavailable to pitch, Girardi decided to close the ninth with Luis Ayala and Boone Logan. However, Ayala gave up a leadoff single to Phillips and Logan hit Votto with a pitch to put the Reds in position for their major league-leading 23rd comeback victory. Fortunately, Rivera restored order. But it does show the Yankee bullpen does have a soft underbelly than can be exploited. The Yankees would love to have a healthy Pedro Feliciano and Rafael Soriano back soon to shore up the bullpen.
  • Andruw Jones had a severe brain cramp in the third inning and it short-circuited a potential big inning. With one out, Cano and Martin hit back-to-back singles. Jones then sent a slow bouncer to Rolen at third. Rolen forced Martin at second but Martin was able to upend Philips. However, Jones did not run the grounder out because he thought there were already two outs. Phillips got back up and threw Jones out by 50 feet. Jones is already on thin ice with the Yankees with his lack of production. Now it looks as if he is going to be a bit lighter in the wallet.
  • Eduardo Nunez got caught leaning after he singled to lead off the fourth inning and Wood picked him off first. These silly mistakes allowed Wood to survive that shaky first inning and pitch seven innings.

ON DECK

The Yankees will play the second of their three road contests against the Reds on Tuesday.

The Yankees will start veteran minor-league right-hander Brian Gordon (0-0, 3.38 ERA) in his second major-league start for the Yankees. In his first start, Gordon, 32, gave up two runs in 5 1/3 innings against the Rangers on Thursday. He did not get a decision but the Yankees did win the game. The former outfielder will get to test his hitting skills against the Reds.

The Reds are starting right-hander Johnny Cueto (4-2, 1.68 ERA), who could not pitch on Monday due to a stiff neck. He has been the Reds best pitcher since being activated from the disabled list in May. He is 0-1 with a 1.80 ERA against the Yankees in his career.

Game-time will be 7:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by MY9.

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