The last game of the two city, seven-game road trip ended on a positive note as Ivan Nova pitched the Yankees to a 3-0 victory over the Minnesota Twins. He executed all his pitches well, especially his slider, and kept his name in a three way race with Mike Trumbo of the Angels and Michael Pineda of the Mariners for Rookie of the Year.
Nova also successfully became the first rookie to win eight in a row with the Yankees since Whitey Ford did so in 1950. He has proven that clutch moments don’t faze him, unlike A.J. Burnett, because he was able to pitch out of a second-and-third no out jam in the fifth inning without allowing a run. This was partly because of miscommunication by Nick Swisher and Curtis Granderson on a ball hit by Danny Valencia, which went for a double.
The Yankees’ prized 24 year old, was super while having five strikeouts and only allowing one walk. He lowered his ERA to 3.97 on the campaign proving that the Yankees will be able to count on him down the stretch and in the playoffs. Earlier in the season it was revealed that Burnett had become a mentor figure for Nova, but maybe Nova should give Burnett some advice on pitching.
Proving the dominance of Nova is that only three Twins were able to get into scoring position against him, but the same type of pitching cannot be said for the Twins starter. Nick Blackburn, only lasted 1.1 innings, while walking the bases loaded before being taken out my his manager, Ron Gardenhire, due to an injury.
The Yankees wasted that scoring opportunity as Anthony Swarzak came in and pitched 2.2 perfect innings, but they were able to capitalize off of the Twins next two relievers.
In the sixth inning Russell Martin hit a sacrifice fly to score Robinson Cano who had doubled earlier in the inning. Martin could finish the year with more than 20 home runs, 60 runs batted in and 10 steals which is impressive for a catcher.
The seventh inning is when the Yankees home run kings, Mark Teixiera and Granderson, hit back-to-back homers in unlikely fashion off of Jose Mijares. Granderson drove a ball high off the wall in right field, but Jason Kubel and Ben Revere went for the wall instead of the carom, which resulted in Granderson just barely beating the throw at home. He really had to hustle for that inside the park home run. He added a steal off of Joe Nathan, proving his versatility and that he deserves the MVP.
Teixiera’s home run was of the traditional variety to cap off the back-to-back feat. He hit a stinging line drive that just made it over the left field fence. This was all the scoring the team would need as the combination of David Robertson and Mariano Rivera did not allow any runs once again, even though Robertson has to pull a Houdini act after allowing a walk and two hits.
Granderson and Teixiera will likely go head-to-head until the last days of the season to decide who will have the most home runs and RBI on the team, as well as in the American League. As of now Granderson has 35 home runs to Teixeira’s 34, as well as having 98 RBI’s to Teixeira’s 95. This will be exciting to follow.
Alex Rodriguez was 0 for 5 in his return but after a few games he will prove to be another power bat to add to the lineup. The Yankees played well without him, winning five out of seven and 13 out of 19, but it will definitely be helpful having him back.
It will also be interesting to see if Girardi makes the wise decision in the upcoming days and replaces Burnett in the rotation for at least two starts. It might even help him if he is able to pitch in the minors for a start or two.
Starting on Tuesday, the Yankees get to continue the cupcake portion of their schedule as they have six straight games against the Oakland Athletics and Baltimore Orioles, who are both well under .500. They should be able to win at least four of those games to help create a few games of separation over the Red Sox who are playing the Rangers for four games. Yankees are in first place by half a game.