Ivan “Super” Nova excels once again as the Yankees division crown is imminent

Not very surprisingly Ivan Nova was able to pick up his 16th win of the season, after pitching 7.2 scoreless innings only allowing six hits in the 5-0 win against the Rays, during a season in which he deserves the Rookie of the Year.

Remarkably, Nova still has not lost a game since June  3rd, which includes eight straight starts where he recorded a win and also four other wins during that time period.  He also had three no decisions, where the team picked up one win and he Tuesday’s win would have been his 17th  but he did not receive much run support in his September 14th start where the team lost to the Mariners.

It is also worth noting that if Nova did not get sent down to AAA Scranton for three weeks in July as a result of Phil Hughes’ return from the disabled least he could easily have two or three more wins.

With his victory over the Rays he cemented himself as the number two pitcher on the staff.  However, this victory where Curtis Granderson was the offensive star yet again, in what should be an MVP season for him, actually helped the rival Red Sox.  Boston lost to the Orioles last night, but since the Yankees beat the Rays, the Red Sox are still two games ahead of the Rays for the Wild Card.

However, like Granderson said, the Yankees just need to concentrate on winning their games, and let the chips fall where they may, until they have clinched the division/home field advantage.  However, since they will surely have clinched before the series with Tampa next week the Yankees will be in position to rest some regulars since they will have nothing to play for.  It is better to go into the postseason with momentum but if everything is locked up the veterans could use a day of rest to “help” the Rays win.

An Eric Chavez RBI single and Granderson’s three RBI double, that scored Chavez, Russell Martin and Brett Gardner, in the second inning, would give the Yankees all the runs that they would need.  They scored those runs off of Tampa Bay starter Wade Davis (4.55 ERA) who is in his sophomore season and is not pitching like he did during his rookie year.

Granderson would also go on to hit his 25th double of the season, off of rookie Tampa reliever Dane De La Rosa, and knock in his 119th RBI of the season, on a single in the fifth.  This would be the second time that he sent Gardner across the plate and, in the process, sent him into first place in the American League by three RBI over Boston’s Adrian Gonzalez who has 116.

Both relievers did their part for the Yankees as Boone Logan and the even more reliable Luis Ayala pitched a combined 1.1 innings and the only blemish was Logan’s walk to Jose Lobaton, who pinch hit for Kelley Shoppach.

Another highlight of this game was that Derek Jeter passed Chicago Cub great Cap Anson, who played even before the Yankees existed, in the end of the 19th century, to move into sole possession of 19th place with 3,082 on baseball’s all-time hit list.  Jeter’s two hits gave him a 12-game hitting streak, to up his average to .296 and increase his odds of having his 12th season hitting .300 or better.

However, some disappointing news came to the forefront about none other than A.J. Burnett.  It was revealed that he did in fact complain to Joe Girardi about being pulled from a game in which he did not even last the required five innings to qualify for the win.

In a game that the always classy Mariano Rivera would pick up his record breaking 602nd save because the bullpen did their job, Burnett felt the need to act like a high school pitcher yet again and whine about being taken out of a game in which he nearly allowed a hit (nine) to half of the batters he faced (22).

Thankfully that has to have been Burnett’s last appearance of the season.  It is hard to believe how he was actually able to control his pitches at times while striking out eight batters, while not being able to command his pitches at all the rest of the time, but he is just a feast or famine type of pitcher.

The Yankees, who are in first place by six games with nine games to play, have a magic number of three games until they clinch the division.  That means any combination adding up to three of Yankee wins, or Red Sox losses, would make the division crown official.

The Yankees play a double header against the Rays today.  This means that if they win both games, behind Ivan Nova (Phil Hughes was originally scheduled to start) and ace CC Sebathia, and the Red Sox lose to the Baltimore Orioles, they will have clinched the division.

This could conceivably happen because the Orioles have been successfully playing spoiler down the stretch, having gone 6-4 in their last 10 games, which is a big improvement from their .416 winning percentage.

Hughes, who has a 6.00 ERA, likely, will not be in the postseason rotation.  He has pitched better since coming off the disabled list in July, dominating in some starts, but in others he has reverted back to his ways from April having allowed six runs or more three times in his last 10 starts.  Hughes has not resembled his form from before the All-Star break in 2010 so he does not deserve to be in the postseason rotation over CC Sebathia, Nova, Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia.

It was just reported that Hector Noesi will in fact be starting the afternoon game instead of Hughes because of his back spasms.  This move makes sense because there is no need for Hughes to further injure himself.

The Yankees are in a position that they have rarely found themselves in before in that with each win over the Rays they will be helping the Red Sox in their quest not to nosedive out of the playoffs.  It definitely seems like the Wild Card race could go down until the last three games of the season when the Yankees head to Tampa, and the Yankees could lock up the division during this series against the Rays which ends on Thursday.

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