SAN DIEGO — Coming off a pair of walk-off victories, the Yankees headed west Thursday night believing some pre-All-Star break momentum was possible with three straight against the struggling Padres.
So much for that.
Wasting a solid start by Ivan Nova, the Yankees fell to the Padres, 2-1, on Saturday night when Melvin Upton Jr. led off the ninth by driving a first-pitch fastball from Andrew Miller over the leftfield wall. It was Upton’s third hit of the game.
“I just wasn’t very good,’’ Miller said. “Not where I wanted to throw that ball, and I paid for it . . . I was trying to throw a fastball down and away. I wasn’t very sharp in general and I paid for it.”
The Yankees (39-41) dropped to 4-27 in games in which they have scored two or fewer runs. It was their third walk-off game in the last four and second straight one-run loss to the Padres.
Nova, who came in 2-4 with a 6.92 ERA in his previous seven starts, allowed one run and four hits in 5 1⁄3 innings. He walked one and struck out seven. Padres lefthander Drew Pomeranz allowed one run and five hits in seven innings.
With the Yankees leading 1-0, the Padres’ Travis Jankowski, a key member of the Stony Brook University team that went to the 2012 College World Series, led off the sixth by dumping a hit to left. As Brett Gardner charged, Jankowski headed for second and, according to second-base umpire Mark Carlson, beat the throw. But the Yankees challenged, the replay showed Starlin Castro’s swipe tag glanced against Jankowski’s hand as he slid headfirst, and the safe call was overturned.
Nevertheless, the Padres tied it later in the inning. Nova walked Wil Myers and Joe Girardi made the call for Dellin Betances. Myers stole second and Matt Kemp punched a 97-mph fastball to right for an RBI double that tied it at 1.
“He didn’t even have a full swing and got that hit, so there’s really nothing I can do about that,’’ Betances said. “After that, I think I threw the ball well . . . I don’t like giving up anybody’s runs. Nova did a phenomenal job today. I was trying to do my best to protect that and obviously I was a little frustrated with that hit.”
Referring to Myers’ steal, Betances said, “I’m a little slow to the plate. I feel like I could do a better job at it. Maybe I’ll start working on that more. I can’t just give up easy bases.”
One out later, Upton lined a single to right. Padres third-base coach Glenn Hoffman waved Kemp home and Rob Refsnyder delivered the best throw of his big-league career to catcher Austin Romine. Kemp was called out on a bang-bang play and the call was upheld after the Padres challenged, keeping the score tied at 1.
Said Betances, “Obviously, Refsnyder made a hell of a throw, kept the game tied . . . Drew [Pomeranz] has been phenomenal the whole year. That’s going to happen from time to time.”
The Yankees didn’t get their first runner in scoring position until the sixth, and they capitalized. Jacoby Ellsbury doubled to right and Gardner put down a perfect bunt toward third, which went for a hit and put runners at the corners with none out. Castro’s groundout to second made it 1-0.
Betances stranded a runner at second in the seventh. Derek Norris led off with a walk and stole second, but Betances struck out Alexei Ramirez, got Ryan Schimpf to ground to first and struck out pinch hitter Brett Wallace, who looked helpless against the righthander’s curveball.
Speaking of helpless, the use of Wallace as a pinch hitter meant the end of Pomeranz’s night, and Padres manager Andy Green had to dip into his lackluster bullpen.
Lefthander Ryan Buchter walked Ronald Torreyes on four pitches but got Ellsbury to ground into a 3-6 double play. Gardner doubled to right but Buchter got out of it when Castro popped to second.
Miller walked Jankowski to start the eighth but retired three straight to keep it 1-1. One Miller pitch later, though, it was over.
Girardi said of Pomeranz: “He had an outstanding curveball and we were never able to solve it. He was tough on our guys. Looked like it might be a 1-0 game.
“I knew I needed multiple innings out of Dellin, and then when we tied 1-1, I knew I needed multiple innings out of Miller. And the only way to do that was to double-switch.”
Girardi took out Nova after only 77 pitches. “When he’s had trouble a lot of times, it’s been in the later innings,’’ he said, “and I’m thinking I’m going to our best.”
Was Nova surprised to come out? “When you play in the National League,’’ he said, “you’re never surprised.”