Comeback falls short in 6-5 loss to RedsNova fans 12, but Votto's home run lifts Cincinnati
Nova and the offense equal Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Ivan Nova has been a tale of two pitchers in 2012. He started the season 3-0 in his first three contests, with a nice 3.79 ERA and just two walks and 20 strikeouts in 19 innings. Since that streak, he has gone 1-2, including the Yankees' 6-5 loss to the Reds on Saturday, with a 6.90 ERA, allowing 40 hits and walking 14 in his last 30 innings. He was both of those pitchers in his most recent loss.
In the first two innings of the game, Nova had command issues, spotting the Reds a 2-0 lead. In the next two innings, he looked like he was just hitting his stride. Then came the fifth inning when he left a pitch over the middle for one of the best hitters in baseball, Joey Votto, to deposit over the wall in right center.
Mixed into this Jeckyll and Hyde performance, Nova struck out a career-high 12 batters en route to the loss. It was a strange outing to say the least. On the one hand, his stuff looked unhittable, and on the other hand, he made a couple of mistakes that ultimately cost the Yankees the middle game of this three-game set.
“When he did get hit they made them count, that's for sure,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said after the game. “You look at the run he gave up in the first inning, he walks two guys and gives up a jam shot and he gives up a run. He didn't have a lot of luck on his side today. Some balls that we almost got to, we didn't get to. I thought he threw the ball pretty decent.”
Nova was a little more harsh of his performace and how he has been pitching of late. “I don't care about strikeouts,” Nova said. “I'm not pitching good, I'm not liking the way I'm pitching right now. I'm making a lot of mistakes, like the home run.” Nova did acknowledge that his stuff was pretty electric when he did make his pitches, however he said of the loss, “It's more frustrating knowing you could do the job and you didn't.”
Nova kept the team in the contest for most of the afternoon, until the Votto three-run blast. Even after the home run the Yankees had their chances to come back and play spoiler. All day the Yankees had opportunities and only got three across the plate before their ninth-inning rally. Situational hitting continues to be a bugaboo for an offense that is reeling and not coming up in the key situations.
Going into the ninth inning, the Yankees were down 6-3 and after a leadoff double by Raul Ibanez, Nick Swisher did something that no Yankee had done in the previous 28 innings: get a hit with a runner in scoring position.
After another RBI single and timely hit from Jayson Nix -- who homered earlier in the game -- the Yankees cut the deficit to 6-5 with runners on first and second and just one out. Derek Jeter almost grounded into a game-ending double play, but reached in a close play at first and finally Curtis Granderson hit a weak ground ball to first to end the rally and the game.
“We just didn't get the last hit that we needed to try to put them away,” Girardi said. “It's good that we're able to come back, but it's frustrating that you get so close and you lose.”
Even though the rally was killed, the situational hitting in the ninth inning might be just the spark the dormant Yankees offense needs.
“Any time there's guys in scoring position you want to get the job done,” Yankees catcher Russell Martin said of his strikeout in the ninth inning in the midst of the rally. “You really don't think about numbers when you're up there hitting, you're trying to get a good pitch. As of late we just haven't been getting the job done. It just takes one day for that to change. We've got great hitters on this team all the way through the lineup and I don't think it's going to stay like this for too much longer.”
The Yankees fell just short and Nova made a couple of bad pitches in the loss, however there is a silver lining in everything. Nova and the Yankees' offense showed just enough spark in the loss that both might just be ready to break out of their midseason slumps.