Curtis Granderson awaits the pitch he would turn into his 35th home run of the season. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak)
Jim Thome had just singled when a fly ball floated into the gap between center and right at Target Field. As Curtis Granderson rushed over to make the catch, he waved off Nick Swisher, but Swisher, who wasn’t expecting Granderson to be there, didn’t hear the outfield captain making the call. The two pulled up short, and the ball fall into the space between for a double for Danny Valencia. The lumbering Thome ended up at third, and the Twins had a threat.
After the game, Swisher and Granderson owned up to their miscommunication. Granderson said he wasn’t aggressive enough in waving off Swisher, and Swisher pulled up when he could. Still, after a win, the Yankee outfielders were in good spirits. “Guys were busting Curtis and I a little, and I said, ‘What are you taking about? You should thank us.’ After that, Nova got filthy,” Swisher said.
That filthiness is of course what everyone was talking about, and just a day after A.J. Burnett’s 1.2-inning blowup against the Twins, the rookie Ivan Nova led the Yanks to a 3-0 victory. After that Valencia double, he struck out Rene Tosoni and Matt Tolbert and induced a ground ball to Mark Teixeira off the bat of Drew Butera to end the Twins’ threat. Four innings later, the Yanks could close the books on a series win in Minneapolis and a 5-2 road trip. First place, you’d be so nice to come home to.
Before Ivan emerged, the story of the day seemed to be another episode of RISP Fail. The Yanks left Jeter on third in the first, and Nick Blackburn walked the bases loaded in the second. With one out, he departed with an injury, and Anthony Swarzak struck out Eduardo Nuñez while Derek Jeter flew out to end the inning. Then in the fifth against Phil Dumatrait, the Yanks again loaded the bases before Alex Rodriguez, playing in his first game back from knee surgery, popped out to Joe Mauer at first. Eight base runners, seven left on, one erased by a double play.
The team broke free in the sixth as Robinson Cano doubled, moved to third on a Swisher fly ball and scored on a Russell Martin sac fly. The fireworks, though, began in the 7th. Curtis Granderson hit a rocket to right center than bounded off the giant scoreboard. He motored around second, and Target Field saw Rob Thompson waving him home. A headfirst dive gave Granderson his 35th home run of the season, and it was an inside-the-parker to boot. “It was good until everyone wanted to talk,” Granderson said later. “As we’re coming in, everyone was asking about it, and I couldn’t really talk too much.”
Mark Teixeira followed with a laser shot down the left field line. The Yankees had their three runs, and Nova, David Robertson and Mariano Rivera would not need more. While Robertson walked a tight-rope in the eighth, Mariano barely broke a sweat.
The accolades though belong to Nova. He threw seven innings, gave up five hits and walked one while picking up five strike outs. He’s 13-4 with a 3.97, and while he was sent down to AAA just a few weeks ago, it’s nearly inconceivable that the Yanks would jettison him from the starting rotation after the Baltimore series. As the Yanks pack up from Minneapolis and return home for a set against the Oakland A’s, I’m left wondering how the odd man out can be anyone but A.J. Today, Nova made the 2011 Twins look like the 2011 Twins, and the Yanks’ flight home was, I’m sure, a happy one.