The Yankees avoided being swept by the Philadelphia Phillies by beating them 10-2 on Wednesday afternoon in Ivan Nova‘s first start in 14 months due to having Tommy John surgery last April. The Rays lost to the Toronto Blue Jays in 12 innings, which means that the Yankees are now only a game behind them for first place in the American League East.
Nova, who threw one extra minor-league start to try and improve his curveball, pitched 6.2 innings while allowing three hits, no runs and throwing an excellent sinker. He threw 92 pitches and was impressively able to throw a 92mph fastball on his final pitch. His curveball was back to how it was in the 2013 season, which helped him retire the side in order in the first, fourth and sixth innings.
Joe Girardi said that he will not decide who to remove from the six-man rotation until next week when everyone will have pitched again. However, since it appears that Nova is back to how he pitched in 2013 when he had a 3.10 ERA, he will be an asset to the rotation with his ability to pitch deep into games and have quick innings. His productive start was also significant because it meant that the Yankees were able to end their streak of three consecutive sub-par performances by their starters.
“I thought his sinker was really good,” Joe Girardi said. “I thought his curveball was really good. I liked his pace. We missed him the last 14 months and it was really nice to get him back today. He has to be really excited to be back with his teammates.”
The Yankees had 15 hits today, which means that it was the 12th game this year that they had 14 or more hits. Their offense to this point has been much better than it was the previous two seasons. Chase Headley, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Chris Young, Didi Gregorius and Jose Pirela all had multi-hit games for the Yankees.
In the second inning, Pirela grounded into a fielder’s choice and Young and John Ryan Murphy scored on an error by third baseman Andres Blanco. In the fourth, the Yankees scored their runs on an RBI single by Brett Gardner, an RBI double by Headley and an RBI single by Teixeira.
Young hit a single to right to drive in Headley in the sixth for his 20th RBI of the season. This made the score 6-0. The Yankees tacked on four more insurance runs in the seventh inning. Pirela doubled to the wall in center to score Gregorius and then Rodriguez hit a single to shallow left with the bases loaded to Pirela and Gardner. Teixeira, who drove in two runs, leads the team with 51 RBIs and that total is tied for second in the AL.
The only negative for the Yankees was that Girardi was ejected in the top of the third inning for arguing a checked swing. He said that what got him ejected was that: “I told the umpire that I would knock it off if you got the call right.”
The Yankees have scored a combined 24 runs over their previous three games, which means that their offense is doing its part right now. Those runs also helped make the last two losses to the Phillies more respectable.
Gregorius has a hit in 10 of last 12 games and has raised his average from .229 to .236 in that span. His defense has improved since the beginning of the season since he has stopped trying to do too much. He has steadily improved every month since he had a .206 average at the end of April, a .232 average in May and has a .254 average so far in June.
On Thursday, The Yankees will play the first of four games in Houston against the Astros, who are surprisingly 42-31 and in first place in the American League West. After that series, they will end their road trip with a three-game series in Anaheim against the Angels. The Astros have hit the most homers in the American League, which means that the Yankees starters will need to be more like Nova and less like CC Sabathia, who allowed two homers in Tuesday’s start.