Behind another brilliant start from Ivan “Super” Nova, the Yankees beat the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday afternoon, 2-0, to move within 3.5 games of a Wild-Card spot. After their second win in a row against the Orioles they moved ahead of them in the process in the standings.
Nova’s very effective 12-6 curveball was working for him all afternoon helping him record his first complete game shutout. He had pitched one other complete game this season, but in that contest he allowed two runs and a homer. Based on his performance since the middle of July, where he has pitched at least seven innings in six of his last eight starts and only allowed more than three runs once, he is the ace of the staff right now.
In this start, Nova limited the Orioles offense to only three hits as his curveball repeatedly kept them off balance. He recorded five strikeouts and only one walk. In his start against Tampa, on August 25, he allowed five walks. He needed to improve on that number and that is exactly what he did.
Joe Girardi showed confidence in Nova in the ninth as there was a runner on first with Chris Davis at the plate. He could have easily brought in Mariano Rivera in that situation brought brought proved that he thought Nova could complete what he started. Crush Davis, who has hit a major league leading 47 homers this season, hit a deep fly ball to Ichiro at the warning track. Adam Jones, who has driven in a career high 95 run so far this season, lined out to Derek Jeter to end the game.
Robinson Cano proved to the team that he is healthy after being hit by a pitch earlier in the week as he hit an RBI double in the first and then hit a solo homer to right later in the game. The Yankees obviously need to resign him in the offseason as they will not be able to replace his offense. He has been the most consistent offensive force this season and now forms a formidable middle of the order with Alfonso Soriano, Alex Rodriguez, and Curtis Granderson.
Like Bob Klapisch wrote in the Record, Nova should definitely get the start if the Yankees play in the one game Wild-Card playoff. CC Sabathia has been the team’s ace since 2009, but he obviously doesn’t deserve based on how he has pitched this season due to his reduced velocity. They do need him to rebound down the stretch. Hiroki Kuroda, has been the best starter for the duration of the season, but Nova has been better recently. Andy Pettitte, who at 41 has 255 wins and has given the team many clutch starts throughout his career and has only allowed a run in his last three starts, is the other pitcher who should get consideration.
Pettitte will get the start this afternoon in the series finale. In his last start, in Toronto against the Blue Jays, he threw seven shutout innings while only giving up five hits. He has proven throughout his career that he knows how to pitch well in big games. If the Rays lose again to the Athletics, and the Bronx Bombers get the win, the Yankees could be 2.5 games out of a Wild-Card spot after today.