Nova and quartet of relievers blank Braves, Yankees tied for first
The New York Yankees long road has reached the pinnacle. Ivan Nova and four relievers combined on a five-hit shutout of the Atlanta Braves, as the Yankees (35-25) moved into a first-place tie with the idle Tampa Bay Rays.
On May 21st, the Yankees were handed a shutout of their own by the Kansas City Royals, which dropped them to 21-21 on the season. Since then, the Yanks have gone 14-4 and are currently riding a four-game winning streak.
Nova has now won four straight starts and has allowed one earned run in his last two trips to the mound. He said he did not have his best stuff yesterday, especially his fastball, but the defense picked him up when needed.
"I didn’t have my best stuff today, but I made the pitches when I had to. The command on my fastball wasn’t there like last time. I got help, big-time. Swisher was awesome. I enjoyed watching that play out there. – Nova via MLB.com"
Nova is referring to Nick Swisher‘s leaping catch at the wall in right field which robbed Braves catcher Brian McCann of a home run. There were other plays throughout the game, including a nice stab of his own on a come-backer which aided the shutout.
The Yankees offense, once again pathetic with runners in scoring position, tallied a run in each of the first three innings. The run in the first would be enough for the victory. Alex Rodriguez ripped a two-out double to left and Robinson Cano drove him in with a single.
The Yankees added another in the second inning as Raul Ibanez led it off with a homer off Braves starter Randall Delgado. In the third the Yankees had two chances to break the game wide open with the bases loaded, thanks to the erratic pitching of Delgado.
Rodriguez drew a one-out walk, Cano doubled and then Mark Teixeira walked. Delgado got Ibanez to strikeout for the second out. With Swisher at the plate Delgado unleashed a wild pitch scoring Rodriguez. Swisher eventually walked loading the bases again, but Russell Martin popped out to first to end the inning.
Nova may not have been dominant but he was plenty good enough. He allowed only five singles through his seven innings of work. He walked one and struck out six. The victory, Nova’s eighth, moved him into a tie for the league lead. When Nova’s position in the batting order came up manager Joe Girardi opted for the pinch hitter even though Nova was only at 107 pitches.
There began the revolving door of relievers who stymied the Braves over the final two frames. Side-arm slinger Cody Eppley recorded two outs in the eighth and Clay Rapada finished off the inning.
Cory Wade came out to start the ninth, as Rafael Soriano was unavailable due to a small blister on his right index finger. Wade struck out Martin Prado and then Girardi went back to the bullpen summoning Boone Logan to face McCann. McCann lined out to first and Logan struck out Dan Uggla to end the game to preserve the 3-0 victory.
The Yankees send their ace left-hander CC Sabathia to the mound tonight to try and extend the winning streak. Sabathia (7-3, 3.69 ERA) is coming off a strange start against the Rays where he allowed five runs, three earned, but struck out twelve batters in seven innings. The Braves look to Mike Minor to slow down the Yankees. Minor (3-4, 6.57 ERA) has been a major disappointment thus far this season, but did claim a victory in his last start.