It was almost like the New York Yankees lineup knew they had to reward Ivan Nova for his outstanding effort.
Trailing 2-1 in the ninth, the Yankees rallied for two runs against Baltimore Orioles closer Jim Johnson to steal a 3-2 victory and give Nova a win he richly deserved.
The Yankees’ 26 year-old right hander turned in a sterling performance against an Orioles lineup that is one of the best in the American League. He went the distance (on only 102 pitches), gave up three hits and stuck out 11. He only walked one, and seemed to be ahead in the count all night long.
Nova, known for his heavy, sinking fastball, racked up 8 of his 11 strikeouts with his improving curveball. Orioles’ batters took weak hacks at it all night, especially left-handers who swung and missed repeatedly as the ball dove toward their back foot. He was extremely efficient throughout the night, only facing four batters above the minimum.
The night didn’t start well for Nova, who was tagged for a two-run home run by Matt Wieters in the second inning, but he was able to settle down and dominate from there on.
The Yankees now face a tough decision moving forward. Nova was only starting because Hiroki Kuroda has been dealing with a hip problem, but he was cleared to make his next start. However, the Yankees certainly can’t take Nova out of the rotation after he had perhaps the best start of his life.
With the All-Star break coming up, the Yankees could rest Kuroda for two weeks to make sure he’s completely healthy before he returns. Or, they could use a six-man rotation to give everyone some additional rest in the middle of a long season. The only problem with that is it might throw off pitchers who are accustomed to starting every fifth day. Veterans like Andy Pettitte and C.C. Sabathia have established routines that they like to follow.
Either way, it’s a nice problem for the Yankees to have. It took a little longer than Yankee fans had hoped, but tonight they got a glimpse at how good Nova can be.
B.L. is a sports writer for Rant Sports and can be followed on Twitter @coachlip.