New York Yankees: Ivan Nova

Nova brings the gas, Cano drives

August, 31, 2013
NEW YORK -- Ivan Nova did the pitching.

And Robinson Cano provided the offense.

Cano gave Nova all the run support he needed Saturday, producing a first-inning RBI double and an eighth-inning solo home run in the Yankees’ 2-0 victory over the Orioles at the Stadium.

Nova ended up throwing the first complete-game shutout of his career. But just as important was Cano’s impact. The All-Star second baseman looks just fine after injuring his hand Tuesday in Toronto.

“Thank God it was all on the muscles,” said Cano, who was struck by a pitch from J.A Happ. “I’ve been getting treatment the last 3-4 days, and it’s feeling really good.”

Cano drilled his 25th homer off Troy Patton into the right-field seats. It was his 202nd career homer as a Yankee, tying Bill Dickey for 15th place on the franchise’s all-time list.

“It was a slider,” Cano said. “Yeah, I hit that one pretty good.”

Since Alfonso Soriano joined the Yankees on July 26, Cano has started to heat up. In that span, he’s hitting .333 with four homers and 19 RBIs. “In the beginning of the season everything was like away and they made me chase pitches,” Cano said.

Not with the red-hot Soriano protecting him. “That’s the last guy you want to face with runners in scoring position,” Cano said of Soriano, who has hit 12 homers in 33 games since being traded to the Bronx.

Manager Joe Girardi is hopeful Cano can put the Yankees on his back in September. “He’s a guy that can carry a club for a month,” Girardi said of Cano.

Cano said his mind remains focused on baseball, not cashing in on a long-term contract.

As long as he keeps this up, he’ll be just fine financially.

 • The Yankees have won a season-high six straight home games. ... They improved to 7-7 against Baltimore on the season and will go for the sweep Sunday.

Rapid Reaction: Yankees 2, Orioles 0

August, 31, 2013
NEW YORK -- The Yankees beat the Orioles behind Ivan Nova's first complete game shutout of his career.

The Yankees now will go for the sweep on Sunday with Andy Pettitte facing Wei-Yin Chen. They are 2-0 to start this crucial 10-game homestand.

WHAT IT MEANS: With the A's and the Rays playing each other later on Saturday, the Yankees are going to gain even more ground in the wild card race. If Oakland wins, the Yankees will be just 3.5 games behind the Rays. If the Rays win, the Yankees will be four back of the A's.

In the meantime, they have vaulted past the Orioles in the wild card and division race. In the AL East, they are 7.5 games back. Of their final 27 games, they have seven remaining with the first place Red Sox.

The are now 2-0 since we calculated they needed to go 21-8 in their final 29 to have a chance at the wild card.

SUPER NOVA: In the second inning, the Orioles threatened to score, but Nova shut them down. Nova hit Adam Jones and Matt Wieters knocked a soft single. With two men on, Nova forced Nick Markakis into a 4-6-3 double play and then left a man at third by making J.J. Hardy fly out to right.

Besides that, Nova controlled the O's all day. Nova was sensational, allowing just 3 hits, striking out five and walking one. He is now 8-4 with 2.88 ERA on the year. Since July, he has an ERA of 2.06 in his last 10 starts. Can you say the new ace of the staff?

CLOSE CALL: With one out in the ninth, a man on and up two runs, Chris Davis hit a fly ball to warning track in right. Ichiro Suzuki made the catch.

ON TOP: The Yankees handed Nova the lead in the first on doubles by Brett Gardner and Robinson Cano.

INSURANCE: In the eighth, Cano would add insurance, a solo shot, for his 25th homer of the year. It was his 202nd of his career, which tied him with Bill Dickey for 15th place on the Yankees' all-time list.

QUESTIONABLE CALL: With men on the corners and one out in the fifth, Derek Jeter had a chance to do some damage. Instead he hit into a 4-6-3 double play.There was one problem -- or so it seemed -- Hardy didn't look as if he were on the bag at second. Umpire Eric Cooper gave Hardy the "neighborhood call" and the inning was over. Joe Girardi complained, but not too vigorously.

DOUBLE PLAY DEREK: With a chance to add to the Yankees lead, Jeter grounded into another inning-ending double play to finish off the seventh. With men on first and second, he hit into another 4-6-3.

TWO CAN PLAY AT THAT GAME: In the eighth, after a leadoff walk, Wilson Betemit hit a sharp grounder to Jeter's right. The captain went to the ground to start 6-4-3 DP for Nova.

ON DECK: I will be writing a column on SuperNova. Mike Mazzeo will have all the news and blogs from clubhouse.

Nova number two?

August, 4, 2013
Ivan Nova Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY SportsIvan Nova was great again Saturday -- and got a tiny bit of run support, too.
SAN DIEGO -- He's not going to replace CC Sabathia on the depth chart, but it certainly is a happy coincidence that just as the New York Yankees' former ace is losing his way on the mound, Ivan Nova has suddenly found his.

After Friday night's 7-2 loss, yet another game in which Sabathia had as much trouble finding answers as getting outs, Joe Girardi essentially said that without an effective CC, New York's hopes for a playoff spot were as good as dead.

But after Nova's gem on Saturday -- he held the Padres to just four hits over seven scoreless innings and outlasted his San Diego counterpart, Tyson Ross, who started out retiring the first 13 Yankees he faced -- Sabathia's struggles no longer seemed quite as catastrophic.

"It’s important," Girardi said after Nova, David Robertson and Mariano Rivera worked together to shut out the Padres, 3-0, at Petco Park. "It’s hard to expect one guy to get it done all the time. Sometimes guys are going to struggle and other people are going to pick up the slack. We haven’t scored him a lot of runs, or he’d probably have more wins than he’s got. He’s been really good."

That last part is not just an understatement, it is a misstatement. Before Saturday night, the Yankees hadn't scored any runs for Nova in his previous 16 innings of work -- they had been shut out, 1-0 and 3-0, in Nova's two previous starts -- and could barely get a hit for the first six innings against Ross.

But after working out of trouble in the first, and allowing a leadoff double in the second, Nova settled down to retire 15 straight Padres before Will Venable doubled to lead off the seventh. Nova survived that crisis as well, with a little help from home plate ump Scott Barry, who punched out Nick Hundley on a pitch off the outside corner that ended the inning.

Still, Nova didn't need all that much help. Working with strictly a fastball and curve -- of 85 pitches, Nova did not throw a single changeup or slider -- Nova walked just one hitter and struck out eight. And when Curtis Granderson, in his second game back after missing 60 games with a broken hand, hit a two-run homer off Ross in the seventh, Nova had more runs than he's had in nearly a month -- the Yankees last scored for him in the sixth inning of a game on July 10 -- and all he would need.

"All my swings and misses were with the curveball," Nova (5-4) said. "I had good command of the strike zone and was working both sides of the plate to righties and lefties. I don’t remember the last time I felt the way I feel now. I’m working hard to try to repeat it every time."

With Sabathia struggling and Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes performing erratically from start to start, it is essential for the Yankees that Nova continue to pitch the way he did on Saturday, if only to take some of the burden off Hiroki Kuroda, who has emerged as the true ace of the staff.

"We’ve seen him do it before," Girardi said. "He got in a little rut in the second half last year, he had a hard time getting out of it, but our expectation was he could find it again and get going, and that’s what he’s done. He's been important to us."

That, too, is more than just an understatement. Without an effective Nova on Saturday, the Yankees are looking at a sweep by the lowly Padres on Sunday.

With him, they just might have a glimmer of hope for the rest of the season.

First Pitch: Super Nova

July, 22, 2013
BOSTON -- The Yankees slotted Ivan Nova ahead of Phil Hughes in the second-half rotation, a sign that Nova has moved up the pecking order. In his last four starts, he has a 2.45 ERA.

Plus, the guy just continues to win. He is 33-16 in his career.

Nova, 26, is cementing his spot in the rotation and in the Yankees' future plans. For whatever reason, he seems to need a trip to the minors to regain his best stuff. It is what sparked him in 2011 and it seems like it is doing it again this season.

When David Phelps comes back from his strained forearm, Joe Girardi said he will consider keeping him as a starter, but if Phelps does go back into the rotation it is hard to imagine that he will do it in Nova's spot.

Nova gets the start Monday night against the Texas Rangers. In his career against the Rangers, Nova is 2-1 with 5.09 ERA. In early May 2011, he beat thee Rangers by going 7 1/3 innings and allowing one unearned run and just two hits. In his last start against the Rangers, Nova gave up four runs in 5 2/3 innings.

UP NOW: The latest Alex Rodriguez news. CC Sabathia struggles. Derek Jeter could come back soon. Plus, Johnette Howard's column on it all.

ON DECK: The pitching matchups against the Rangers: Nova (4-2, 3.63) vs. Yu Darvish (8-4, 3.02); Tuesday, Phil Hughes (4-9, 4.57) vs. Alexi Ogando (4-2, 2.93); Wednesday, Andy Pettitte (7-7, 4.47) vs. Derek Holland (8-5, 3.10); Thursday, Hiroki Kuroda (9-6, 2.65) vs. TBA

QUESTION: Do you believe in Nova?

Cashman looking for bats at trade deadline

July, 12, 2013
NEW YORK -- With Ivan Nova's emergence over the past two weeks, the Yankees will have six quality starting pitchers on their roster once David Phelps returns from the disabled list.

With that abundance of arms, and a current lack of offense, the Yankees could potentially dangle a starter in hope of swapping an arm for a bat.

Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman said "we'll see" when asked Friday about the possibility of using the pitching depth to make a move.

"You need the excess pitching and it's nice to have the excess pitching. We'll see," Cashman told "[We'll] stay engaged with the clubs and if anything makes sense we'll have to evaluate it."

Cashman reiterated that the Yankees are in search of offense, not arms, as the July 31 deadline inches closer. He did add that he's not sure if the Yankees will be able to find anything better than players on their disabled list, which includes third baseman Alex Rodriguez and left fielder Curtis Granderson.

The GM expressed confidence in his pitching staff, which has been boosted lately by the revival of Nova. After struggling to start the year, and being sent down to the Triple-A, Nova is 2-1 with a 2.45 ERA in his four appearances since returning, and has given up just three earned runs over his past 17 innings.

"It's been great. Obviously sending him out was a good move," Cashman said. "We sent him down to let him press the reset button and he worked on some things with Gil Patterson and he's come back a monster. He's got great stuff."

As Nova has blossomed, veteran Andy Pettitte has been struggling lately, as he has given up at least four runs in seven of his last eight stars. In his last two, he's yielded a combined 17 hits and eight runs in 12 1/3 innings. Cashman isn't concerned about the veteran southpaw.

"I think guys struggling for a period of time is not something unusual in a 162-game season," Cashman said. "He's healthy, he knows how to pitch and he's been there for us. I don't have any worry with that."

While the Yankees usually find themselves near the top of the division near the All-Star break, they currently are in the fourth place in the AL East, six games out of division lead, as well as 2 1/2 games out of the Wild Card. Cashman said that doesn't change how he works at the trade deadline.

"Last week we were in the playoffs," Cashman said. "This week we're 2 1/2 games out."

Phelps to DL; Nova to start Wednesday

July, 6, 2013
Turns out figuring out when to start Ivan Nova next wasn't so hard after all.

The Yankees on Saturday placed righty David Phelps on the 15-day disabled list with a slight strain of his right forearm, opening up a rotation spot for the red-hot Nova.

Joe Girardi cautioned that the injury did not affect Phelps' ligament, but it gave him an easy decision regarding Nova.

Girardi said after Nova's complete-game gem Friday that he would try to get Nova another start.

With Phelps out, Nova has been penciled in to start Wednesday's game against Kansas City.

Also, righty Hiroki Kuroda's hip strain is healed, so he will start Sunday's series finale against Baltimore.

Phil Hughes will start Monday against Kansas City, and CC Sabathia will get the ball Tuesday.

Girardi said Phelps first felt pain in his forearm after his start Thursday against the Twins.

The right-hander underwent an MRI on Friday that revealed a minor strain.

The Yanks considered skipping Phelps' next turn in the rotation rather than placing him on the DL. But they ultimately decided to put him on the DL to make sure that he's healthy for the second half of the season.

CASHMAN TALKS CATCHERS: Brian Cashman said Friday that he's open to looking outside the organization for a catcher, but there isn't much to choose from.

Francisco Cervelli has a stress reaction in his right forearm and is most likely out until at least Aug. 1, so Cashman was asked if he's looking at any catchers to replace Cervelli.

"I've been open for anything that makes sense," he said. "But the catching market is completely barren."

Cashman said he was more likely to promote Triple-A catcher J.R. Murphy than look outside the organization for a backstop.

ALSO: Derek Jeter begins his rehab assignment with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Saturday afternoon; Alex Rodriguez will play in Brevard County on Saturday. ... All-Star selections will be announced Saturday night.

Girardi: Nova earned another start

July, 5, 2013
Ivan NovaBrad Penner/USA TODAY SportsIvan Nova pitched nine incredible innings against the Orioles.
NEW YORK -- Ivan Nova had one of the best nights of his career on Friday against the Baltimore Orioles. And it only got better after the game.

Shortly after Nova finished the first complete game of his career, Joe Girardi delivered some good news on the right-hander, telling reporters that he had earned another start.

That's big news for Nova, who has been used mostly as a spot starter this season.

"That's good," Nova said. "I've got some confidence back, and I've got to keep working."

Nova has every reason to be confident after Friday's outing.

He was masterful against the Orioles, striking out 11 and walking just one in a 3-2 win. He gave up only three hits all night.

[+] EnlargeIvan Nova
AP Photo/Frank Franklin IINova was happy to hear that he earned another start.
"I thought everything was working for me," Nova said.

The 26-year-old righty had once been viewed as a mainstay in the Yankee rotation. But he lost his spot earlier this year due to ineffectiveness and injury.

After Friday night, it looks like he's forced Girardi to think long and hard about letting Nova back in the rotation.

"I thought he was great," Girardi said.

Nova has had three straight strong outings thanks in part to a deceptive two-seam fastball that he recently added to his arsenal.

He used the pitch to get ahead of Orioles hitters all night and relied on an array of sliders and curveballs to put them away. He also kept the game close heading into the bottom of the ninth, giving the Yanks a chance to complete a two-run game-winning rally in the final frame.

"His curveball was about as good as I've seen a curveball for anyone," said Vernon Wells, who had a game-winning single in the bottom of the ninth. "You could tell by some of the swings that guys took that they weren't picking it up."

That much was apparent early on when Nova struck out two Orioles in the top of the first. His only mistake of the night came in the second inning. After drilling home run threat Chris Davis with an inside fastball, Nova threw a 93 mph heater over too much of the plate to Matt Wieters. Wieters hit a deep drive to left that bounced off the top of the wall and in the stands for a two-run homer, out of the reach of a leaping Wells.

"I was rejected by the wall," the Yankee left fielder joked.

From there, though, Nova was dominant.

He retired nine in a row, striking out the side in the fifth.

Nova also benefited from strong infield defense from both Robinson Cano and Luis Cruz.

"He was great after the homer," Girardi said.

So now, the right-hander gets another start.

It isn't clear when that will happen, but with the Yankees playing 20 straight games before the All-Star break, Girardi will surely find a spot for the suddenly-hot Nova.

"I'm not sure exactly how we'll do it but he'll probably start again," he said.

Neal down; Nova set to start

June, 23, 2013
NEW YORK -- The Yankees optioned outfielder Thomas Neal to Triple-A Scranton before today's game to clear roster space for Ivan Nova, who is starting this afternoon's game against the Tampa Bay Rays. Neal batted .182, with two singles in 11 at-bats, in four games for the Yankees.

Postgame notes: Nova to start on Sunday

June, 21, 2013
Ivan Nova will start the finale of the Yankees-Rays series on Sunday afternoon.

"That's our plan as of right now," Joe Girardi said after the Yankees' 6-2 win on Friday night.

Nova was a healthy scratch from his start for Triple-A Scranton on Friday.

The 26-year-old was 2-1 with a 5.16 ERA with the Yankees this season but excelled at Triple-A, going 2-0 with a 2.04 ERA.

Nova began the season as the Yankees' No. 5 starter but was replaced by David Phelps, who earned the win on Friday.

GRANDY TAKES STEP IN RIGHT DIRECTION: Curtis Granderson has taken a positive step in his rehab from a broken left pinkie.

The slugger had a pin removed from his hand on Thursday.

He hopes to start swinging a bat under water soon. The next major step will be hitting off a tee.

"Once we get that going," Granderson said, "things should hopefully go relatively quickly."

Granderson fractured his hand on May 25.

"No pain, no soreness," he said.

Injuries have limited Granderson to just eight games and 31 plate appearances this season. He broke his right forearm on his first at-bat of spring training three months before he fractured his pinkie.

Granderson, who was in the Bronx on Friday, said he has been running and lifting weights with his lower body. He hopes to start lifting weights with his upper body soon.

PHELPS JUST FINE: Phelps allowed two runs on eight hits over 5 2/3 innings to earn a win for the third time in four starts at home.

Phelps got out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam by inducing back-to-back flyouts to keep the game tied at 2-2 in the fourth.

"I thought that was the inning for us that changed the game," Girardi said.

STINGY STAFF: Yankees pitchers have held their opponents to four runs or fewer 49 times, the most among American League staffs. ... The Yanks reached base safely in every inning except for the fifth and seventh and collected their most hits (11) since May 29.

Morning Notes: Nova's turn

March, 12, 2013
TAMPA, Fla. -- Since Florida is closer to the equator and Tampa is further west than New York, it was absolutely pitch-black here at 7:30 a.m. now that we've switched over to Daylight Savings Time. Just thought you'd like to know. Here are the highlights from this morning's session with Joe Girardi:

NOUVEAU NOVA: The manager says he has seen an improvement in Ivan Nova's command ever since he made a slight adjustment in his motion this spring. He also hinted that Nova may have come to camp last year a little complacent after his excellent 2011 season, in which he went 16-4 with a 3.70 ERA. Nova, locked into a battle with David Phelps for the No. 5 starter's job, needs a good effort today against the Rays in Port Charlotte to stay even.

I LEFT MY HEART: With Ben Francisco. Not really, but the newest Yankee seemed like an extremely pleasant fellow in his first meeting with the beat crew this morning. The Yankees had expressed an interest in Francisco, who spent time with three clubs last season, over the winter but the 31-year-old OF chose to sign with Cleveland. However, after the Indians signed Michael Bourn, Francisco decided he would have a better chance here after all, so he requested and recieved his release. Now, he's in the mix with the half-dozen or so veterans and rookies vying to win a spot in the Yankees OF while Curtis Granderson recovers from his broken arm.

AUSTIN WHO?: One of the surprises of camp so far has got to be the early departure of Austin Romine, who some considered a dark-horse candidate to win the backup catcher's job. But Romine got only eight at-bats, and two singles, and was reassigned yesterday to Triple-A Scranton. It means either Romine's stock dropped in this camp, or the Yankees saw something more in Bobby Wilson, who is still here and who has received praise from most of the starting pitchers he has worked with so far.

EARLY START: The start time for Saturday's game here against the Phillies has been moved up an hour, from 1:05 p.m. to 12:05 p.m., to accommodate a Kenny Chesney concert later in the day across the street at Raymond James Stadium. If you've ever driven on Dale Mabry Hwy. during rush hour, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

Off to Port Charlotte now. Talk to you later.

Nova: A question of confidence?

March, 2, 2013
Ivan NovaKim Klement/USA TODAY SportsIvan Nova threw 22 strikes in two solid innings against the Detroit Tigers on Saturday.
TAMPA, Fla. -- The word popped out of Chris Stewart's mouth three times in a two-minute interview in regards to Ivan Nova: Confidence.

As in, "He was confident out there today." And, "It's tough to repeat your delivery if you're not fully confident in it." And, "Hopefully, he’s the guy we saw two years ago, going out there with confidence every single day and not afraid of throwing strikes and daring people to try to hit them.''

So even though Nova looked good in his two-inning, 27-pitch stint against the Tigers today, the question is along way from settled. Does Nova believe strongly enough in his own stuff to be a consistently good big-league pitcher?

Nova threw 22 strikes, walked no one, struck out Kevin Russo on a beautiful curve and allowed just an infield single in his two innings, and appeared in command. But it hardly wipes out the memory of the second half of last season, when he had trouble getting past the 5th inning and saw his ERA sit above 5.00 for most of the year. The kid who seemingly had cemented his future with a 16-4 season in 2011 was left off the playoff roster in 2012.

Like Phil Hughes a year ago, he comes to this camp having to battle for a roster spot, locked into a battle with David Phelps for the No. 5 starter's job. Phelps has also looked good so far this year, throwing five scoreless innings in two outings, and no one has questioned his confidence.

"I’m concentrating on attacking the strike zone and I did it today," Nova said. "(Last year) I wasn’t attacking the hitter like I did today."

No one, not even his manager, seems to be able to explain why.

“That’s such a hard thing to really measure," Joe Girardi said. "Is it in his stuff? Is it in the struggles? Is he confident in himself? Since we’re not inside his mind, that’s kind of hard to tell. When he’s consistent, he’s dynamite, he wins and he pitches extremely well. For me, he need to be confident in his stuff and he needs to be confident in his abilities to really make it work.”

Stewart thought a mechanical adjustment had something to do with Nova's effectiveness.

"It was just finding the right arm slot," Stewart said. "He had such a long arm motion last year, its tough to repeat it if you’re not fully confident in it. This year he’s a lot shorter so he can repeat it a lot easier and we saw the results today."

QUESTION: Do you believe in Ivan Nova? Or do you need to see more to be convinced?

Girardi: Nova still in our plans

October, 7, 2012
BALTIMORE -- Although Ivan Nova was left off the Yankees ALDS roster, manager Joe Girardi said the 25-year-old right-hander was still being looked at as an important part of the pitching staff.

"Long-term, we got big plans for this guy, we really do,'' Girardi said. "He’s won 28 games in the last two years for us."

Nova, who won a game in last year's ALDS against the Tigers, went 12-8 with a 5.02 ERA this season, and struggled mightily after the All-Star break, going 2-4 with a 7.87 ERA. "I think it was just command, just getting too much in the middle of the plate with his fastball, and the inconsistency sometimes of his off-speed," Girardi said. "He’s got to keep working, keep trying to get better and be prepared if we need him here."

Girardi: Nix the last man on board

October, 7, 2012
BALTIMORE -- There really weren't many surprises either included on or left off the Yankees' postseason roster, with the possible exception of Cody Eppley, who was a useful member of the bullpen all season.

But the one who semi-surprised Joe Girardi was Jayson Nix, who was originally thought to be out for the first round when he suffered a hip flexor strain in Toronto in the second-to-last series of the regular season. But Nix made a rapid recovery and Girardi said he was the last player added when he finalized the roster Friday night.

“We didn’t know if he was going to be healthy,” Girardi said. "But he ran the bases pretty good yesterday. I’ve seen a real toughness about him so I’m not that surprised."

Girardi said Eduardo Nunez is likely to inherit the right-handed DH at-bats that used to belong to Andruw Jones, who was left off, and that Derek Lowe would be used either in Eppley's role as a situational righty in the sixth inning, or as a long man. Girardi said that Lowe's experience in high-pressure games -- he was a starter for the 2004 Red Sox team that overcame a 3-0 deficit to knock off the Yankees in the ALCS and went on to win Boston's first World Championship in 85 years -- went into his decision to add him to the roster.

Other highlights of Girardis' pre-game session with the beat crew:

-- He considers Brett Gardner "a full player" for him in this series, but isn't sure if he will start any games because he's had just three at-bats in the past five months.

-- That tonight's lineup alignment of Nick Swisher hitting fifth and Mark Teixeira sixth is likely to be the norm for this round at least.

-- That Eppley, Ivan Nova, and Freddy Garcia would remain with the club and throw side sessions as if they were on the roster so any or all would be ready if needed in an emergency.

"Friday was a pretty tough day because I had to inform a lot of people they weren’t going to be on the roster and that’s no fun," Girardi. said. "It's especially tough with guys who have been with us all season and have done a good job fo rus. But we'll keep them with us in case we need them later."

W2W4: Yankees at Blue Jays (Sept. 27)

September, 27, 2012
Ivan Nova Stats to Watch
Nova was shaky in his last start against the Athletics, but was very good against the Blue Jays the last time he pitched in the Rogers Centre (7 1/3 innings, two runs, 10 strikeouts on Aug. 11).

Nova's optimum pitch that day was his curveball, which he threw with greater frequency in that start than in any other in his career. He threw 19 of 25 for strikes to lefties and 15 of 21 for strikes to righties.

It was effective as both a swing-and-miss pitch (the Blue Jays missed on eight of 13 swings) and a pitch with which he could get a called strike (of the Blue Jays' 33 takes, 21 were strikes).

Nova has a specific strategy against AL East opponents to offset their teeing off on his fastball. He throws it only 49 percent of the time against them, compared to 58 percent against everyone else.

Whatever Nova has done against the Blue Jays recently, it has worked. He has won three straight decisions against them, allowing six runs in 20 2/3 innings.

Brandon Morrow Stats To Watch
Morrow has a history of success against a number of Yankees hitters, specifically Curtis Granderson (.125 BA, 10 strikeouts in 16 at-bats), Derek Jeter (.182 BA, 22 at-bats), and Alex Rodriguez (.190 BA, 21 AB).

If Joe Girardi "plays the binder," you may see Eduardo Nuñez tonight. He's 5-for-12 against Morrow. You'll also likely see Ichiro Suzuki (4-for-10) in the leadoff spot.

Morrow has had a harder time throwing his breaking ball for strikes since he returned from injury. He was getting 62 percent strikes with it prior to the injury, but only 54 percent since.

Morrow's fastball has also gotten drubbed. He jss yielded five home runs with it in his last six starts, including two against the Rays in his last start.

Historically, the fastball/slider combo has been Morrow's go-to against the Yankees. In his last three starts against them, they've accounted for 58 of his 60 outs.

Morrow's 10.7 strikeouts per nine innings against the Yankees is the best of any active pitcher.

The long wait for A-Rod
Alex Rodriguez is still waiting to catch Stan Musial on baseball’s all-time RBI list. Rodriguez has 1,949 RBI, one shy of Musial for fifth all-time.

However, he's 1-for-14 with five strikeouts in his last three games and has no RBI in his last seven games (his second-worst RBI drought of the season. He had a nine-gamer in May).

Rodriguez has missed on pitches he should be hitting. Of the 13 outs in these last three games, 10 have come on pitches in the strike zone, and the other three were just off the plate.

Wednesday, Rodriguez made three outs against pitches that were located "middle-middle" (meaning over the middle-third of the strike zone both height-wise and width-wise).

Rodriguez was hitting .313 against pitches in the strike zone this season prior to this little slump.

Home Run Happy
The Yankees figure to hit a few home runs this weekend.

If Eric Chavez hits one, he'll give the Yankees nine hitters with at least 15 home runs. Only two teams have been able to do that previously: the Indians and Rangers, both in 2005.

The 233 home runs hit by this team are their fourth-most in a season. They need seven to catch the 1961 team for third-most.

Notes: Nova, Ichiro and Jeter

September, 22, 2012
Things could have been much easier on the New York Yankees Saturday if Ivan Nova had pitched better.

The righty suffered through the shortest start of his career against the A's, allowing three runs in 2 1/3 innings on five hits and two walks. He threw a career-low 58 pitches.

"It's not good," Nova said afterward.

Nova was coming off of a strong start -- he gave up just two runs on four hits in the Yanks' win over Tampa on Sept. 15.

But any goodwill from that outing was wiped away Saturday.

"He left some fastballs up in the first inning and they hit him hard," Joe Girardi said.

Prior to his Sept. 15 start, Nova missed nearly three weeks due to a nagging shoulder injury. He insisted on Saturday that his shoulder felt fine and he's 100 percent healthy.

"I feel great," he said.

INCREDIBLE ICHIRO: Ichiro Suzuki is the toughest out in the major leagues right now.

The future Hall of Famer is batting .700 (14-for-20) with seven runs, three doubles, two homers, five RBIs and five steals in the last five games.

On Saturday, he had a homer, two singles and two walks. He also scored the game-winnig run in the 14th.

"I've never experienced ... situations like this. And to do this here, that's very special," Suzuki said.

CAPTAIN KEEPS HITTIN': Derek Jeter didn't have a great day at the plate, but his sixth-inning single extended his hitting streak to a season-high 16 games. Jeter is batting .365 (27-for-74) over the stretch. He has hitting streaks of at least 16 games in eight different seasons, the highest total among active players. ... The Yankees have won two straight "walk-off" wins. The last time that happened was May 15-17 in the 2009 season, when they did it in three straight games against the Twins. ... Girardi said Raul Ibanez was going on contact when he took off from third on a grounder to second in the 13th. He was gunned down at the plate after a collision with A's catcher Derek Norris. ... Girardi said he removed Andruw Jones and inserted Curtis Granderson in the third because he knew the Yankees would need some offense to win the game. Jones has been mired in an awful slump in the second half. ... Saturday's game lasted 5:43, the Yanks' longest game since 5/17/02 against Minnesota.



Jacoby Ellsbury
.271 16 70 71
HRB. McCann 23
RBIB. McCann 75
RB. Gardner 87
OPSB. Gardner .749
WM. Tanaka 13
ERAH. Kuroda 3.71
SOH. Kuroda 146