Yankees win fourth straight, top Nationals 4-2

Ivan Nova throws three scoreless innings in second spring start
03/03/2014 5:30 AM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Prior to Monday's game, Joe Namath threw out the ceremonial first pitch to Derek Jeter.(AP)
Ivan Nova pitched three scoreless innings and a four-run second inning was all the Yankees would need to notch their fourth-straight Grapefruit League win, a 4-2 triumph over the Washington Nationals at Steinbrenner Field on Monday.

Nova, who allowed two runs in just 1 1/3 innings in his first spring start last week, struck out four over those three innings and retired nine straight after Nationals leadoff hitter Denard Span reached on a Corban Joseph error to start the game. After Nova ended his outing by getting Span to fly out, manager Joe Girardi said he was impressed with how his right-hander put his rocky debut behind him so quickly.

"We like where he's at, and he pitched really well today. He threw some really good changeups today, and it's going to be another step in his maturation as a pitcher with that pitch," Girardi said during his in-game interview with YES Network broadcasters Ken Singleton and John Flaherty. "I think he realized that you have to build off of what you do every start, and you can't take for granted what you've done in the past."

Offensively, the Yankees exploded for four in the second inning off Nationals starter Ross Detwiler, with six consecutive hitters reaching to open the frame. Brian Roberts led off with a single, and after Francisco Cervelli singled, Kelly Johnson smacked an RBI double to plate Roberts and make it 1-0.

One batter later, both Cervelli and Johnson scored when Ichiro reached on a throwing error by Walters, and after Zoilo Almonte followed with a ground-rule double to put runners on second and third, Corban Joseph added an RBI single to make it 4-0 before Detwiler and reliever Danny Rosenbaum got out of the inning.

Once Nova's day was done, David Robertson made his spring debut in the fourth, hitting leadoff batter Danny Espinosa but quickly erasing him on a double play en route to a scoreless inning, and Shawn Kelley struck out two in the fifth around a solo homer from Nats shortstop Zach Walters.

The Nats mounted a rally off Danny Burawa in the sixth, getting back-to-back singles by Eury Perez and Span before Espinosa reached on a Derek Jeter error that allowed Perez to score - but both Burawa and Jeter quickly recovered, with The Captain starting a 6-4-3 double play on next batter Tyler Moore before Burawa struck out Sandy Leon to end the inning.

The Yankees put runners on in each of their final three turns at the plate but would not score again, nor would the Nats; Robert Coello pitched a perfect seventh, Yoshinori Tateyama escaped a two-on, no-out jam in the eighth, and Jim Miller pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to record the save.

Offensively, the Yankees totaled 12 hits, with Cervelli (who is now hitting .571 this spring) and Almonte both going 2-for-3. Brett Gardner, Brian McCann, Roberts, and Johnson were all 1-for-3, and Jeter finished 0-for-3 to remain hitless on the spring.

The win pushes the Yankees' records to 4-2 in Grapefruit play and 5-2 overall this spring, and they will look to make it five wins in a row when they play under the lights for the first time on Tuesday. The Yankees will host the Orioles for a 7:05 p.m. tilt at The Boss, with David Phelps vs. Wei-Yin Chen the expected pitching matchup.

Follow us on Twitter @LouDiPietroYES and @YESNetwork for more. comments