Uneven outing for Nova, but Yankees outlast Pirates
Kevin Youkilis, Eduardo Nunez, and newly-signed Brennan Boesch all had two hits for the Yankees, and that trio gave the Bombers a 3-0 lead before Pirates starter Phil Irwin even recorded an out; Nunez and Boesch hit back-to-back singles to open the game, and after a double steal and an error allowed Nunez to score, Youkilis hit his third home of the spring over the left field wall to make it 3-0.
The Yankees got another run thanks to the trio in the second, with Youkilis' double scoring Nunez, then doubled their lead in the fourth when Melky Mesa hit a grand slam off reliever Mike Zagurski.
Meanwhile, Yankees starter Ivan Nova was solid early, allowing just two hits in those first three frames, before the Pirates tallied three in the fourth and one more in the fifth. The last one would come on Clint Barmes' solo homer, and Nova would finish with a line of 5 IP, 4 R, 6 H and 4 K.
The Yankees got single runs in the sixth (Boesch sac fly), eighth (passed ball by Pirates catcher Lucas May) and ninth (Addison Maruszak double) and the Pirates got one in the seventh on May's RBI single, leaving the game at 11-5 heading into the wild final half-inning.
The Pirates roughed up Matt Tracy in that ninth, hitting four straight singles before an Alex Presely double cut the lead to 11-8 and brought the tying run to the plate. Chase Whitley relieved Tracy and allowed the final run on an RBI groundout, but he got Matt Curry to fly out to center and Gregory Polanco to ground out to second to end the game.
Offensively, the top three in the order had six of the team's 10 hits, with Mesa, Maruszak, Chris Stewart and Gil Velazquez all adding a knock and Jayson Nix drawing a pair of walks.
Behind Nova, the Yankees got a perfect sixth inning from David Robertson, and also saw Brandon Pinder get into and then work out of a two-out jam while pitching a scoreless seventh. Tracy himself had allowed only one walk while pitching the eighth, and Whitley retired all three hitters he faced in the ninth.
With the win, the Yankees improve to 9-14 in Grapefruit League play, and will have Monday off before returning to action on Tuesday against the Phillies in Clearwater.
Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroYES