Ivan Nova’s seven shutout innings helped the Yankees beat the Padres 3-0 on Saturday in San Diego. He had command of all of his pitches once again, leading him to limit the Padres to four hits, while striking out eight and only allowing one walk.
In his last six starts, he has now allowed two runs or less in five of them. He is emerging at just the right time because CC Sabathia has not been pitching well in his last few starts. Sabathia’s ERA is all the way up to 4.78 after allowing seven runs against the Red Sox, seven runs against the Rays and then five runs and 11 hits on Friday against the Padres.
Sabathia has had by far his worst three-game stretch as a Yankee, so that has obviously made Nova’s recent dominance even more important. The Yankees need Sabathia to pitch like the ace he has been for the majority of his career in order to get in the playoffs as a Wild Card, but Nova has emerged as the de facto number 2 behind Hiroki Kuroda.
Just as important as the stellar start that Ivan “Super” Nova had against the Padres was the performance that Curtis Granderson gave the Yankees in his second game since coming off of the disabled list. Granderson hit a homer just over the wall in right to drive in Alfonso Soriano, which would give the Yankees all the runs that they would need. In the ninth, for an insurance run, Jayson NIx hit a single to right to drive in Granderson after he had singled and stole second.
Granderson, whose 84 homers combined in 2011 and 2012 were more than anyone else in baseball, adds a power hitting outfielder that the Yankees had been desperately missing this season. It is like they have added another hitter that they did not have to trade for at the trade deadline. He will make the offense so much better and is a true five tool player. He combines with Soriano and Cano to form a formidable middle of the order.
The recent additions of Derek Jeter (who didn’t play on Saturday and will not play on Sunday either because of a right calf injury), Soriano and Granderson to the lineup gives them a legitimate offense with multiple power hitters. In regards to Jeter’s injury, Giardi said that he could pinch-hit on Sunday, but he likely will not because he would have to play the field.
Joe Girardi conservatively took Nova out after the seventh inning after he had only thrown 85 pitches. However, that makes sense when he has David Robertson for the eighth and Mariano Rivera for the ninth inning. They form one of the best eighth and ninth inning combos in baseball and in this game Robertson allowed only one hit in the eighth for his 25th hold and Rivera struck out Alexi Amarista to help him record his 35th save.
Before the game on Friday, Trevor Hoffman, who previously held the record for saves in a career, presented Rivera with a customized beach cruiser. He has received a gift from every opposing team that he has faced this season as they are respecting his greatness during Rivera’s last season. It was fitting that Rivera’s gift in San Diego was given to him by Trevor Hoffman.
It was unfortunate that the Cleveland Indians and Tampa Bay Rays won on Saturday which prevented the Yankees from gaining ground on them in the Wild-Card race. In order for the Yankees to win the series in San Diego they need Phil Hughes to rebound from the five runs that he allowed against Tampa in his last start.
The Yankees are now 3.5 games out of the Wild-Card, but even though they were 2.5 games out on July 20, they have a more realistic chance of making up the games now because of their much improved offense.