Nova, ‘pen hit hard as Yanks can’t finish sweep

Almonte homers twice in Trenton win
Mailbag: Melky, Soriano, Swisher, Felix, Garcia

The Yankees were going for the four-game sweep of the Rangers on Thursday, but they were unable to pull out the win even though the offense rallied to both tie the game and take the lead in the middle innings. Bullpens eh? They’ll break your heart.

“Maybe this ball will have my command.” (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Not So SuperNova

It’s one step forward and one step back with Ivan Nova, who followed up his strong effort against the Blue Jays with a total dud against the Rangers. His defense didn’t help much — Casey McGehee muffed a ground ball and Andruw Jones lost a ball in the sun — but he still allowed seven hits, four walks, and one hit batsmen in 5.2 innings. Three of those hits went for extra bases and three came with two strikes. Nova went to a two-strike count on ten of the 27 batters he faced, and four of those ten reached base. That’s pretty awful.

Last time out against Toronto, Nova stifled the Jays by throwing 46 curveballs and 13 sliders (out of 105 pitches, so  56.2% breaking balls) and locating them down and out of the zone. On Thursday he threw 26 curves and seven sliders (out of 103 pitches, so 32.0% breaking balls) and hung a few of them for base hits, most notably Josh Hamilton’s first inning double. Nova also slipped off the mound in the fourth and limped off the field, but he remained in the game and seemed fine, at least health-wise. I give Ivan major credit for pitching out of a bases loaded, no outs situation in the third, but otherwise this was another underwhelming start in a summer full of them. He allowed at least four runs for the fifth time in his last nine starts.

(REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine)

Tie Game And The Lead

Derek Holland held the Yankees to just one hit in the first five innings, but they struck for five runs in the sixth inning to first tie the game and then ultimately take the lead. Ichiro Suzuki got it all started with an infield single, then Derek Jeter and Nick Swisher plated a pair of runs with singles. Cleanup hitter Andruw Jones jumped all over a first pitch sinker for a game-tying two-run blast down the left field a line, a homer that was reviewed and eventually upheld. Mike Olt’s two-base error in right put Casey McGehee on second, and one batter later Russell Martin singled him in for the 5-4 lead.

The Yankees tacked on a sixth run on Mark Teixeira‘s fielder’s choice one inning later, but they could have had more since it was bases loaded with just one out. They also handcuffed themselves with a second inning bunt from Ichiro which, even if he was trying for a hit, was probably a bad play. I’m not quite sure how you can try to bunt for a hit against Adrian Beltre after not attempting it even once in four games against Miguel Cabrera a week ago. Unsurprisingly, Chris Stewart failed to get the run in. I also think it’s flat out inexcusable that Robinson Cano did not score from first on Ichiro’s double in the ninth. Center field Craig Gentry dove for the ball and knocked it away, but Robbie had to hold up at third because they stopped running hard after rounding second. There were two outs, just put your head down and run.

(REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine)

Unprotected Lead

The Yankees had a clear need for another relief pitcher in May, but they instead opted to wait for Joba Chamberlain to get healthy. Now that Joba’s healthy, they still need another reliever. The right-hander allowed Texas to take a two-run lead on Gentry’s two-out, two-strike single in the seventh, then allowed two more runs in the eighth. I’ve been saying it for months, we had no idea how well Joba would come back after two major injuries. He’s allowed six runs and 17 baserunners in six innings since returning and can’t be used in even medium-leverage spots because the command is not there. They’ll have to live with it though, because getting a decent reliever in a trade while at the end of the waiver priority line is damn near impossible.

Boone Logan also allowed a run by allowing base hits to two of the three men he faced, including a double to the left-handed hitting David Murphy. Clay Rapada also allowed a garbage time run in the ninth when he was facing a bunch of righties. With a one-run lead in the seventh, the best way to go may have been Logan for Hamilton, Joba for Adrian Beltre, Rapada for Murphy, and then David Robertson thereafter. Hindsight is 20/20 and all that. The offense did a great job to battle back from a four-run hole to take the lead, but the bullpen really let the Yankees down on Thursday afternoon.

Defensive specialist. (AP Photo/Paul J. Bereswill)


Joe Girardi had his pitchers intentionally walk Mitch Moreland not once, but twice. That’s just madness. Gentry followed up both with run-scoring plays. I get intentionally walking Hamilton in the eighth, but the free passes to guys like Moreland and Sean Rodriguez has to stop. They Yankees have been showing way too much respect to hitters like that.

The only players in the starting lineup with multiple hits were Jeter (two singles) and Ichiro (two singles and a double), though the only starters without a knock were McGehee and Stewart. Swisher singled and walked, so he was on-base twice. The various pinch-hitters off the bench went a combined 0-for-4 with a walk (Cano) and two strikeouts. Oh well, it just wasn’t meant to be.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs some additional statistics, and ESPN the updated standings. The Orioles lost to the Red Sox (finally), so they remain six games back. I assume David Price and the Rays will be the Angels out on the West Coast, so they’ll be six back as well. The magic number to clinch the division is 39.

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next

The Rangers are leaving town and the Red Sox are on their way in. New York and Boston will play a three-game set this weekend that will have no impact on their race against each other. At 58-61, the Sox are 13 games back and closer to last place than third place. Check out RAB Tickets if you want to catch Friday’s series opener, when Phil Hughes matches up with Franklin Morales.

Almonte homers twice in Trenton win
Mailbag: Melky, Soriano, Swisher, Felix, Garcia
  • Kramerica Industries

    You know how the Yankees always struggle mightily when they play out in Anaheim?

    After tonight, the Rays will be 10-3 in Anaheim since the start of the 2010 season.

    Stuff like that just bugs the ever-living shit out of me.

    • Pasta Stumbling Sojo

      While the Yankees by no means have the division wrapped up, the silver lining if the Rays are going to win, at least they’re doing it against a team that I’d prefer not make the playoffs.

      • Kramerica Industries


        I detest too many teams in the AL, Angels included. But seeing the Rays winning on the road is something that never ceases to annoy me. Which is why Seattle taking two of three was actually a very nice change of pace. One that was totally unexpected.

        If this were the A’s the Angels were playing, I’d love to see them get their asses handed to them.

    • Brian S.

      Large-ish ballpark, good defensive team. That’s why we don’t do well there. Same with Tropicana.

  • Anthony

    Funny.. weren’t people complaining about Robbie’s lack of hustle just a few weeks ago? Oh well, moot point. He’s still one of our best.

  • JoeyA

    His name is Mark Montgomery.

    Who cares if he’s only in AA. He’s obviously effective now, call him up in September & see how he does.

    To have that arm in our system & allow the BP issues to continue w/o considering said arm would be absurd.

    • Knoxvillain

      The last reliever the Yankees rushed to NY with great potential with Joba. They aren’t going to go through that again. Montgomery will be here next June at the earliest, and for good reason.

      • Voice of Reason

        What lessons were learned from “rushing” Joba Chamberlain, and how would those lessons be applied to Montgomery’s situation?

      • Bryan__fromNZ

        Joba was a Strasburg-esque dominant pitching prospect in 2007 who was nearing his innings limit that year, so he was put into the Yankee bullpen because it was shite.

        The whole Joba to the pen then rotation then pen in 2008 was incredibly stupid. Right up there with Girardi/Cashman’s handling of Pineda’s lost velocity and first rehab, and Hughes’ rush into the 2007 rotation.

        Hughes was supposed to spend a good chunk of 2007 in AAA. A starter goes down in April (it might’ve been Pavano who was opening day starter that year), and Hughes gets called up afterward, at 21 yrs old.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          Strasburg-esque is a bit of an overstatement there, don’t ya think?

          • Bryan_fromNZ

            Jobs was dominant in the minors, 2007. I followed his every start. Upper 90s fastball. Real shame.

            • Robinson Tilapia

              Yes, but Strasburg was a word that probably hasn’t been invented in the English language yet.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      I still remember the HR he gave up in spring training. To me, at least, he looked overmatched then. Almost an entire season has passed, but I’d never call it the slam dunk you seem to think it is.

  • captain kiwi

    i left after the rangers made it 6-5, and as much as it sucks to come home to a loss, i’m perfectly okay with just having won the series. something’s got to give with nova though. does no one agree that phelps should be given a chance?

    • DT

      I’ve wanted Phelps over Nova in the rotation for quite a while.

  • Rich in NJ

    I would think Nova, Hughes, Phelps and Garcia are all vying for a playoff rotation spot(s). At this point, Phelps and Garcia could be in the lead, but it’s fluid.

  • Knoxvillain

    If Nova continues to suck, then I wouldn’t mind them giving Lowe a shot in the rotation. I know he sucked in Cleveland, but Nova does nothing but pitch crap game after crap game. He has been a huge let down this year. If Lowe doesn’t work out, then I’d just give the spot to Phelps once CC comes back.

    • Need Pitching & Hitting

      Nova should only have one more start before CC gets back, so really no need for Lowe to start. If they make a change (I doubt they will), they could just go directly to Phelps taking Nova’s spot.

      • captain kiwi

        yeah. much as i think they should, i don’t see them punting nova for phelps whenever cc gets back. i sure as balls don’t want to see lowe starting anytime soon.

        • Brian S.

          I don’t see them punting Nova either because he’s a large man.

          • Robinson Tilapia

            You’d need a MUCH bigger man to do the job.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          It’s not punting. Taking a guy out of the rotation while he works out his issues isn’t giving up on him. It’s allowing him to do it in a situation which puts less pressure on both him and team.

          Swap Phelps and Nova for the remainder of the season, especially with rosters expanding soon and Lowe on board in case of the unforseen? I’m game.

          • captain kiwi

            ? that’s exactly what i think they should do. i just don’t see them doing it.

  • RetroRob

    Regarding Joba, I said in ST that it won’t be until 2013 that he can be counted on to be effective. It’s great his velocity is back, and that’s a positive long term, but command will take time. I actually think being a starter might be more beneficial because of greater repetition.

    Joe Nathan returned last year and was ineffective for roughly the first four months of the season. He didn’t show command until very late in the season. They should do what the Twins did with Nathan, which is use him in lower leverage situations until his command improves. Of course, that was easy for the Twins. Most of their games are low leverage!

    • Robinson Tilapia


  • jim p

    Ichiro since joining the Yankees:
    avg: .312 / obp: .338 / slg: .442 / ops: .780

    • I am not the droids you’re looking for…

      SSS FTW!

  • Kosmo

    In the 7th inning Ichiro leads off with a single then Girardi pinchhits for Stewart with Ibanez, Washington counters this by bringing in a LHP who then proceeds to neutralize Ibanez, a very ineffective hitter vs.LHP. Ibanez hits into force play at 2nd, Ichiro is out. Why not let Ichiro run on the first pitch with Stewart up ? Force Soto to make a play. Ichiro has a very good success rate stealing bases. The way Girardi managed the 7th inning bugs me.

    Logan and Joba have good FBs calling for 3-4 sliders in a row is just downright stupid. If Joba continues his ineffectiveness NY might want to take a look at Whitley or Montgomery.

  • Nickboy

    Swisher was clearly the MVP of the series. Outstanding at the plate. Taking the rangers 3-1 was a huge series. No doubt swish and the boys will continue against this wipe out of a red sox team.

  • Nickboy

    Huge series for the boys with swish the obvious MVP. No doubt well continue this against the flailing red sox.

  • LarryM.,Fl.

    I enjoy Cone’s commentary from the YES booth especially in regards to pitching. Cone’s explanations of Nova pitching are so leveling to the fan in the respect to the fans expectations of Super Nova. My hope is Nova is experiencing the sophomore jinx this year. His game against AAA Blue Jays was indicative of the schedule and Blue Jays misfortune not of his entire season against solid clubs. Nova has one of the worst extra base hits against in the league. He continues to throw pitches capturing too much of the plate. But I have hope that the talent is there and he is developing to be an excellent pitcher.

    This comes from a guy who believes the Yanks don’t give their young pitchers more rope to develop unless pinned against the wall. So I accept Nova’s performances this year as a development thing. Hopefully in the playoffs his maturation as a pitcher will culminate in a few good starts. Similar to the one inning when he pitched out the jam after he walked the bases loaded.

    Joba just needs more work and not in high leverage spots unless its for a single batter at a time or he over matches those at the plate.

    3 out 4 pretty good against a quality team with all their pieces playing.

    • Jose M. Vazquez..

      I agree with all of your views on this. Yankee fans are always too impatient with their young pitchers. Every time Hughes or Nova have a bad game they want to trade them then they complain that no good pitching is developed by the Yankees.

      • Kosmo

        actually Hughes and Nova will never be stud pitchers,servicable mid to back of the rotation starters maybe. Yankees “inability to develop pitchers“ is just another way of saying NY has very little pitching talent within the org. especially in the upper minors. You can say this holds true for most teams. It seems to me Arizona is the only org with great pitching talent.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          Nothing wrong with being a good mid-to-back guy. Someone needs to pitch those innings, and pitch them well.

          Not that I think you’re saying otherwise or anything.

          • Kosmo

            I think there was/is a basic misconception about what these 2 pitchers are really capable of. Hughes was touted as a 1 or 2 SP way back when and Nova coming off his best season at AAA in 2010 was/is hyped IMO to be something he really isn´t. Certainly nothing wrong with being good mid-to-back of the R SP(ers).

        • LarryM.,Fl.

          Kosmo avoid the universal word “never” in reference to Nova and Hughes. I’m more inclined to look at them as 3 and Back in the rotation. But one day soon Hughes may hit upon a release point or something that gives him better location and breaking pitches. Sometimes its just dumb luck.

          Nova shows its there in his makeup. That one inning of pitching displayed the ability to throw hard and compliment with the breaking pitch. But the first three guys were walked. So, with 2014 around the corner. I’m excited about the future development of some of our young guys. Nova and Hughes are still young. And they are frustrating. But watching youth grow can be frustrating as some of us already know.

          • Robinson Tilapia

            Yeah, but if you STILL don’t know what you have in Hughes come middle of next year, you’re not going to be looking to re-sign him. At some point, you’ve done your part in trying to develop him and wait. Now, we can argue the merits of the job they’ve done but, once the arb years are over, there’s not a whole lot else you can do.

            I’m hoping “solid starter with some lights-out starts and some moments where the ball’s going to be hit into Siberia” continues and that it’s enough to keep him as a mid-guy for us.

            • Kosmo

              Right ! Hughes will be 27 next year and Nova 26. I think Mike said last week that Nova isn´t as good as he was last year and not as bad as he´s shown so far this season. That´s an OK pitcher who might pitch to a 4.25 ERA and win on average 13 or so games. I`ll take it but it still doesn´t point in the direction of NY having top flight pitching talent in the upper minors.

          • Kosmo

            Larry I´ve seen pitchers with lesser stuff load the bases and then get out of it. One inning doesn´t really point to much.
            I won´t use the word “never“ again instead I´ll say it´s “highly unlikely“ may the gods strike me dead.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Can’t argue with this one bit.

    • Deep Thoughts

      I love you.

      Let’s start a 35-and-over slow-pitch Yankees blog.

  • JLC 776

    We didn’t need to win that game to prove anything, but boy does looking at that WPA graph hurt. I hate games that feature great comebacks that turn out to be that last breath before drowning!

    Regarding Nova – he can be painful to watch or just absolutely fun to watch. The ratio leans more to the former than the latter, but this is only his second year. Expectations need to be kept in place.

  • Rev Max

    Really, Ichiro gets 3 hits and spells Grandy in CF and RAB posts a pic mocking his D. Seriously. I’m loving what he’s bringing the Yanks. Where the respect?