YANKEES 5, BLUE JAYS 2
When Ivan Nova struck out 10 Red Sox batters on July 8, he headed into the All-Star break with a 10-3 record and a 3.92 ERA. The New York Yankees had not seen that Nova since – until Saturday.
After going 0-3 with a 8.36 ERA in his last five starts, Nova was looking to turn a page on an ugly chapter of his sophomore major-league season and he did just that.
Nova struck out 10 batters and held the Blue Jays to just two runs on five hits in 7 1/3 innings as New York got a big three-run home run from newly acquired corner infielder Casey McGehee and defeated Toronto in front of a sellout crowd of 45,582 at Rogers Centre.
The Yankees have now won four straight games.
Nova (11-6) rediscovered the form on his swing-and-miss slider and used it along with his 12-to-6 curveball to keep the Blue Jays swinging mostly at air throughout the day. In his previous starts, his slider spun up to the plate and the 25-year-old paid the price – especially in his last two starts, giving up 16 runs on 21 hits in 10 1/3 innings.
But that Nova was a distant memory and the reliable old Nova re-emerged on this day.
Meanwhile, the Yankees did most of their damage against Blue Jays starter Aaron Laffey (3-3) in the fourth inning and it all happened with two out.
Mark Teixeira led off the frame with a single up the middle and, one out later, Andruw Jones drew a walk. But they remained there with two out until Jayson Nix slapped a lined single to left to score Teixeira and advance Jones to third.
McGehee, who was making only his fourth start for the Yankees since being acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates on July 31, hit his first home run with the Yankees into the second deck in the left-field bleachers to expand the lead to 4-0.
Nova retired the the first nine batters he faced, striking out four. However, he gave up a leadoff single to Rajai Davis in the fourth inning, balked him to second and David then scored on a line-dive single to right by Edwin Encarnacion.
The Yankees tacked on a run in the sixth off Laffey when McGehee slapped a one-out double down the left-field line and he scored on a two-out ground-rule double from Derek Jeter, who with that double reached the 150-hit mark for the 17th straight season and he and Henry Aaron are the only two major-league players to have accomplished the feat.
The Blue Jays rallied in the eighth for another run off Nova and it again was Davis and Encarnacion right in the middle of it.
Davis opened the inning with a double into center and he stole third. One out later, Encarnacion plated Davis with an infield single and Nova was removed from the game by manager Joe Girardi.
David Robertson ended the inning by inducing a double-play grounder off the bat of Omar Vizquel on Robertson’s first and only delivery of the game.
Rafael Soriano pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning to earn his 28th save in 30 opportunities this season.
With the victory the Yankees improved their season record to 67-46, the best mark in the American League. They lead the second-place Tampa Bay Rays by six games in the American League East. The Blue Jays have now lost five straight and they are last in the division and 14 games out.
- Nova’s rediscovery of his slider was the big key in order for him to get back on track. Girardi was very clear in saying that Nova needed to return to form and he did. In his last two seasons, Nova is 27-10 with a 4.17 ERA. His importance to the Yankees going forward is immense. The Yankees simply need him to pitch this way the rest of the season.
- McGehee’s home run was his first with the Yankees and his ninth of the season. If he hits another homer, the Yankees would have 10 players on the roster who have double-digit home runs. McGehee gives the Yankees an additional power bat from the right side in the absence of Alex Rodriguez. With his 2-for-4 game, a double, a home run, three RBIs and two runs scored he is showing indications he will be a key contributor against left-handed pitching.
- Jeter’s double put him in elite territory by recording 150 or more hits in 17 straight seasons. Aaron is the only player to have done it. Pete Rose had a run of 16 consecutive seasons going in 1981 but the strike-shortened season left him short with 140 hits. He then recorded a 172-hit season in 1982. So it is safe to say that Rose would have easily put together 18 consecutive 150-hit seasons if not for the strike.
- Curtis Granderson was 0-for-3 and had a pair of chances to get a key hit with two runners on base in the fourth and fifth innings and he did not get the ball out of the infield in either at-bat. He popped out to third in the fourth and rolled out to first in the fifth. But the good news was that Granderson did not strike out in the game.
- Robinson Cano was 0-for-4 with a walk and he did not exhibit much patience in his at-bats other than the walk. He hit two weak grounders and was called out on strikes in three of his at-bats. Cano entered the contest 15-for-37 (.405) in his last nine games with a home run and eight RBIs. He and Jeter are each hitting .315 on the season.
- Nick Swisher had a rough day in his old No. 2 spot in the batting order. He was 0-for-4 with a walk and he struck out twice. He also failed to get a ball out of the infield. Despite the bad day, Swisher does appear to more comfortable in the No. 2 spot and Girardi looks like he intends to keep him there.
What started out as a ripple of a rumor turned into a big wave when Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News reported Saturday that CC Sabathia was suffering with left elbow stiffness. The Yankees then confirmed it and placed the ace left-hander on the 15-day disabled list. Sabathia first felt some discomfort after an Aug. 3 start against the Seattle Mariners. But the discomfort subsided and Sabathia started on Wednesday against the Detroit Tigers. The stiffness returned and it did not subside. Originally the Yankees were planning to skip Sabathia for just his next start on Monday against the Texas Rangers. However, they later decided to place him on the disabled list and he will be eligible to return on Aug. 23. In the interim, the Yankees are planning to use David Phelps, who is 2-3 with a 2.42 ERA and has made three starts this season, in Sabathia’s place on Monday. The Yankees also agreed to a contract with veteran right-hander Derek Lowe and he will pitch out of the bullpen. . . . In keeping with his plan to rest his veterans, Girardi did not start Ichiro Suzuki following his five-RBI night on Friday and he used Jeter as the team’s DH. Suzuki entered the game in the ninth inning as defensive replacement for Jones in left-field.
The Yankees will have a chance for a road sweep of the three-game series against the Blue Jays on Saturday.
Right-hander Phil Hughes (11-9, 4.10 ERA) will get the starting nod for the Yankees. Hughes allowed four runs and eight hits in 4 1/3 innings in a loss to the Tigers on Tuesday. He is 3-4 with 4.38 ERA in his career against the Blue Jays.
The Blue Jays will use their third consecutive left-hander in J.A. Happ (0-1, 6.35 ERA). Happ allowed four runs on seven hits in 4 1/3 innings in his first start for the Blue Jays against the Rays on Tuesday. Happ has no record and 3.00 ERA in his one start against the Yankees when he was a member of the Philadelphia Phillies in 2010.
Game-time will be 1:07 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.