With the strikeout force at the end of the Yankees bullpen, starter Ivan Nova nearly became a footnote to Saturday’s 2-1 victory over the White Sox.
Rest assured, Joe Girardi noticed. Opportunity is knocking for Nova and he knows it. In his second start replacing the injured CC Sabathia, Nova gave up one run — Todd Frazier’s 12th home run of the season — on four hits in 5 2⁄3 innings.
Even when Sabathia returns, the disabling of second year starter Luis Severino likely will give Nova an extended shot at reclaiming a spot in the rotation. “That’s something obviously you got to look at,’’ Girardi said. “It’s not anything that we’ve talked about but Nova’s doing his job. Wherever we’ve put him, he’s done his job this year so he’s throwing the ball well.’’
Nova walked one, struck out two and had 13 ground ball outs. “He’s got a good sink and that’s really important for him,’’ Girardi said. “That’s his bread and butter. You think about the one run they scored, he left the ball up. That’s was the only mistake he really made today. He gave us almost six innings. I didn’t want to push him too far, his last start he worked pretty hard. I don’t think you could ask for much more.’’
Nova (2-1, 3.70 ERA) turned out to be the setup man for the firing squad of Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman. They combined for eight strikeouts.
But Nova gave them the lead to defend. “That should be the story today,’’ Miller said. “How good Ivan Nova was.’’
Nova does not have the excitement of a flame thrower. “You have to know what type of pitcher you are,’’ Nova said. “I’m not a big strikeout guy. I make sure once I leave the bullpen (in warmups) my sinker’s where it’s supposed to be and today it was really good . . . I feel really good. Every time I throw a game like that it makes me more excited. I’m happy the way everything has gone so far.’’
Nova had no problem leaving the game, calling his three teammates in the bullpen “strikeout machines. Once you throw six good running you can kind of relax and you know they’re going to get the job done.’’
White Sox manager Robin Ventura said of Nova,
“We couldn’t get anything going. Nova was good. His sinker was great today. We kept beating it into the ground. We didn’t really get anything going. Frazier got the one.”
Nova said he never lost confidence even when he was assigned to the bullpen after losing the final rotation spot to Sabathia in spring training. Catcher Brian McCann said of Nova, “With the attitude he had, it just speaks volumes of his character and who he is. He’s capable of pitching at a high level. ’’
Nova realizes what is at stake for him in the coming starts. “You don’t want your teammates to go down by injury,’’ he said. “This is part of the game, that’s going to happen. You just got to be prepared mentally whenever they give you the chance to go out there. Now with (Severino) going down I’m sure I’m going to get more chances to pitch. I just got to go out and get the job done.’’
With Roger Rubin