Shortly after he finished off the first complete game of his career, manager Joe Girardi informed the public that the 26-year-old right-hander had earned himself another start. It’s safe to say that Nova has every reason to feel confident that he could possibly retake his spot in the rotation after mostly being used in mop-up duty and spot-starts this season.
He was spectacular against the Orioles, scattering only three hits while striking out 11 and walking just one in a dramatic 3-2 win. This performance came in the most unlikely of circumstances, as he was filling in for Hiroki Kuroda, who had to miss the start due to a hip pointer.
Nova had once been viewed as a top-of-the-rotation guy after going 16-4 in 2011. However, he lost his spot this year due to ineffectiveness and injury. After Friday night, it looks like he’s forced Girardi to consider letting him back in the rotation. He had two other prior strong outings out of the bullpen thanks in part to a wicked two-seam fastball that he has added to his repertoire.
He used the pitch to get ahead of Orioles hitters all night and relied on biting curveballs and sliders to finish them off. Most importantly, he kept his team in the game while they once again floundered in the clutch, going 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position prior to their two-run game-winning rally in the ninth inning.
Nova made only one mistake, a two-run home run by Matt Wieters over the short porch in left field. From then on, he was practically unhittable, retiring nine Oriole hitters in a row at one point. Going into the ninth inning, there was little hesitation to put him out there, and he had all the confidence he needed to finish the game.
So Nova is guaranteed another start at some point in the next 20 games before the All-Star break. However, he gave us a glimpse of what he was in 2011 and is starting his journey back into the Yankees’ starting rotation after navigating through one of baseball’s top offenses with ease.
If anything, he’ll have put a significant amount of pressure on fellow bottom-of-the-rotation dwellers David Phelps and Phil Hughes, who have also undergone their struggles during the season.
It was a terrific performance to witness from, and one that will certainly aid him in his quest to be a full-time starter once again and regain the form he once had.