Now that’s what I’m talking about.
Saturday in the Bronx, Ivan Nova dazzled the crowd, blanking the Baltimore Orioles over nine innings, giving up just three-hits, one walk, a couple hit-by-pitches and five strikeouts on 104 pitches.
Nova was doing everything the New York Yankees have been expecting him to do – pitch well and get outs. His curveball was at its best, his location was on point and his ability to put away hitters when they were down in the count helped him maintain a low-pitch count throughout the afternoon.
The complete-game shutout was the first of Nova’s young career, and possibly the first of many more to come.
In Nova’s first full season with the Yankees back in 2011, he showed off true potential, pitching to a 16-4 record with a 3.70 ERA in his rookie campaign. Ever since then, he had shown nothing of his 2011 form.
Prior to landing on the DL earlier this season with inflammation in his right triceps, Nova’s ERA has rocketed to 6.48 in his first four starts of the season. But as Yankees manager Joe Girardi says, during his time on the DL and in the minors this year, Nova “found himself,” and has been a much better pitcher because of it.
Since returning from the minors in late May, Nova is 7-3 with a 2.23 ERA, including a 4-0 record in the month of August – a month in which he’s been historically successful, posting a 5-0 August record in ’11 as well.
At a time where the Yankees need every win they can get, it’s a big deal that Nova has been on such a pitching tear over the past couple of months, with an ERA of 2.61 since the All-Star break.
As the calendar turns to September, and other starters like C.C. Sabathia, Phil Hughes and lately, Hiroki Kuroda, it’s going to be tough for the Yankees, who, based on Girardi’s 93 wins needed prediction, need to go 21-6 over their final 27 games if they have any hope of playing baseball in October.
While Sabathia is being paid to pitch like an ace, but isn’t doing so, and Kuroda, who’s pretty much taken over the role as the ace this season, has seemed to have hit a wall in his past three starts, Nova looks to have taken control of the reins at a time he’s been needed the most.
For the time being, Nova is the new ace of the Yankees, and it’ll be extremely difficult for him alone to lead the Yankees into the postseason, but for now, it’s still good enough to get the wins most needed.
Gavin Ewbank is a Yankees columnist for Rant Sports. Follow @GavinEwbank2013 on Twitter for more Bombers talk.