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Ivan Nova nearly flawless as Yankees blank Braves

Righty gives up just two hits in 6 1/3 scoreless innings
03/19/2014 4:33 PM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Ivan Nova retired 19 of the 21 batters he faced Wednesday.(AP)
Ivan Nova was nearly untouchable Wednesday, and the Yankees gave him all the offense he needed before he even threw a pitch in their 7-0 win over the Braves in Lake Buena Vista.

Nova, making his penultimate spring start, went 6 1/3 innings, allowing just two hits and striking out five against an Atlanta lineup that was, at least one through seven, their projected opening day bunch.

He had a 1-0 lead before he even took the mound - thanks to Brett Gardner singling to lead off the game, stealing second, advancing to third on a Derek Jeter flyout and scoring on a Carlos Beltran RBI single - and the righty took it from there, retiring 19 of the 21 batters he faced and never allowing a runner past second base.

Adonis Garcia added a two-out, two-run double in the fourth, and the combo of a Carlos Beltran RBI single and Brian McCann RBI fielders' choice in the seventh made it 5-0, but that was more than enough for Nova, who departed after getting Freddie Freeman to ground out the open the seventh.

The Braves actually had runners reach third base in that seventh (off reliever Danny Burawa) and in the eighth (off Shane Greene), but they couldn't come up with a two out hit to bring in either run. The Yankees would then add two insurance runs in the ninth thanks to both Dean Anna and Zelous Wheeler drawing bases-loaded walks, and Dellin Betances worked around a two-on, two-out situation in the ninth by getting Elmer Reyes to fly out and end the game.

Offensively, the Yankees' seven runs came on just seven hits, as the team also drew an incredible 11 walks in the game; Beltran went 3-for-4 to lead the way with the lumber, Gardner drew three walks in his four plate appearances, and pinch-runner turned shortstop Yangervis Solarte had the odd line of two runs scored despite just one plate appearance (which ended, as might be inferred, in a base on balls).

Yankees pitchers walked only one and recorded five strikeouts (all by Nova), with Burawa (2/3 IP, 1 H), Greene (2/3 IP, 1 H), Cabral (2/3 IP, no line), and Betances (2/3 IP, 1 BB, 1 H) all crossing off another spring list item by getting the chance to come into the game in the middle of an inning.

With the win, the Yankees improve to 12-9-2 in the Grapefruit League and 13-9-2 on the spring overall, and next up is a road game under the lights; David Phelps will be on the mound against the Red Sox in Fort Myers on Thursday night, and full coverage begins on YES at 7 p.m.

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