ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Ivan Nova didn’t help his trade value or the Yankees’ quest to remain in wild-card playoff contention in a 5-1 loss to the last-place Rays on Friday night at Tropicana Field. Nova (7-6) gave up two first-inning home runs, was charged with all five runs and failed to make it through the fifth inning.
Teams that are in the market for a reliable starter might want to approach the Rays about righthander Jake Odorizzi (5-5), who threw 6 2⁄3 scoreless innings and allowed six hits, walked none and struck out five. The Yankees managed their only run in the eighth against reliever Dylan Floro on a two-out RBI single by Mark Teixeira to the opposite field against the shift.
Nova was well aware of his status as the main exhibit in a showcase game before Monday’s non-waiver trade deadline, and he had made his desire to stay with the Yankees clear. Manager Joe Girardi was frank before the game in acknowledging that Nova’s free-agent status makes it unlikely that he will be back next season, but he said the righthander didn’t seem distracted.
“That’s the danger about following everything on the Internet and Twitter and when family members are calling you, but you have to be able to block it out,” Girardi said, alluding to the trade noise. “He hasn’t shown that it’s bothered him. He’s pitched well to this point. Hopefully, he stays on that roll.”
By the end of the first inning, the four-game roll in which Nova had gone 2-0 with a 2.66 ERA was over, ended by two balls rolling around in the outfield seats. On Nova’s third pitch, Logan Forsythe hit his first career leadoff home run, a line drive to left-center off a 92-mph fastball. With two outs, Corey Dickerson turned around another fastball, hitting a high drive to right-center for a 2-0 lead.
It was a far cry from the performance Girardi hoped for against the Rays. He said the Yankees’ 8-3 record in the previous 11 games might affect management’s approach to the trade deadline in terms of being sellers or buyers, and he told the players that the three-game Rays series is tantamount to “playoff baseball” if they want to keep the team together.
“I think people are looking at us differently, and that’s why I think this weekend is important to keep that consistency,” Girardi said of the three-game series. “I think everyone looks at it differently. Maybe the Yankees are getting going.”
Nova’s struggles continued in the second when he put two on with two outs with a hit batter and a walk. He got out of that jam but yielded a leadoff triple to Brad Miller in the third. Miller scored on a forceout at second for a 3-0 lead.
For the third time in five innings, Nova gave up a hit to the leadoff man in the fifth as Miller doubled. On the next pitch, Evan Longoria’s double made it 4-0. When Steve Pearce reached on a one-out infield single, Girardi lifted Nova for Chad Green, who walked Kevin Kiermaier to load the bases before giving up a sacrifice fly to Steven Souza Jr. for a 5-0 lead. Green finished the game.
The Yankees outhit the Rays 10-7 but went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10 runners.
Notes & quotes: Carlos Beltran, who largely has been restricted to a DH role, might play rightfield Saturday night before going to Citi Field for two games, when he would have to play the outfield without a DH . . . Rob Refsnyder replaced Aaron Hicks in rightfield Friday night . . . Relief pitcher Bryan Mitchell (left big toe surgery) is scheduled to pitch a simulated game Saturday at the minor-league complex in Tampa as his rehab continues at a better-than-expected pace.