Delay doesn't derail Nova
October, 2, 2011
By Ian Begley | ESPNNewYork.com
It didn't bother him that he was pitching Game 1 of the ALDS and not Game 2.
Bigger stage? Brighter lights? Didn't matter to Nova.
"It's all the same," he said.
Strong words from a 24-year-old rookie.
But he backed them up on Saturday night.
Nova was virtually unflappable in the resumption of Game 1, tossing six shutout innings against Detroit as the Yankees took the ALDS opener, 9-3.
"He did exactly what we needed him to do," Derek Jeter said.
Nova was originally scheduled to pitch Game 2. But the suspension of Game 1 due to rain forced Nova to pitch the remainder of the opener on Saturday night.
When he got the ball, it was the third inning and the Yankees and Tigers were tied 1-1.
When he walked off the mound in the ninth, it was Yankees 9, Tigers 1.
In between, Nova tossed six scoreless innings. He struck out five, walked four and allowed just four hits, strolling off the mound in the ninth to chants of "Nova, Nova!" from the sellout crowd in the Bronx.
"I loved what he did today," Joe Girardi said.
After retiring the first seven Tigers hitters, Nova got into and out of trouble in the fifth.
With men on first and second in a tie game, Jhonny Peralta nailed a hard single to center. Curtis Granderson fielded it on one hop. Alex Avila came around third and tried to score.
Granderson hit Derek Jeter at the edge of the infield. Jeter turned and fired a bullet to home that hit Russell Martin's glove about one step off the plate toward third, in time to nail Avila.
Nova found himself in hot water again in the sixth. He let free-swinging Austin Jackson off the hook, walking him after getting to 0-2.
With Magglio Ordoñez up, Jackson took off. Ordoñez hit a grounder up the middle. Robinson Cano smoothly covered second, picked up the ball seemingly effortlessly, touched the bag, calmly stepped to the side and completed the double play. Nick Swisher then made a diving catch in right to end the inning.
Nova got through the seventh and eighth without an issue before giving the ball to Girardi with the bases loaded in the ninth. The 6 1/3-inning outing gave the Yankees bullpen a huge lift.
"He just kept his composure ... and he kept making pitches," Martin said.
At the beginning of the year, no one inside or outside the organization knew what to make of Nova, who was coming off an inconsistent seven-start stint in 2010. He said his family optimistically hoped for ten wins.
He did them six better, finishing at an astounding 16-4.
And now he another one in the playoffs.
"It's the same game," said Nova, who was the first Yankees rookie since Orlando Hernandez in 1998 to win his postseason debut. "A little bit more pressure, of course. But it looked the same to me."