Nova gem halts three-game losing streak for Yankees
In terms of halting a malaise at the plate, the script for Wednesday night could not have been written any better for the Yankees.
One portion of the script had Robinson Cano hitting a three-run home run and another had Ivan Nova continuing to pitch well.
Both led to an 8-1 win over the Royals as Cano homer in the third inning and Nova allowed one run and five hits in eight innings.
The game didn’t exactly stop the offensive stagnation, at least not in the early innings. The Yankees had three hits in the opening five innings before coming through with none out and the bases loaded in the sixth.
Heading into the game, the Yankees had just three extra-base hits out of 38 hits after scoring 29 runs at Minnesota last week. Wednesday night the Yankees had three and nearly had a triple but Cano was thrown out trying to stretch his double into a three-base hit in the seventh.
The win marked the 30th time the Yankees scored more than five runs. They are 29-1 in those games with a regular lineup that only contained three players from the end of last year (Gardner, Ichiro and Cano). They were 68-19 in games in which they scored more than five runs in 2012.
However, they could not avoid two injuries as Travis Hafner left the game with a left foot contusion and Gardner suffered a right leg contusion. The Yankees said both players are day-to-day after X-rays were negative.
Hafner said he suffered the injury taking swings in the batting cage behind the Yankee dugout between at-bats. Afterward, he had his foot in a wrap that left him unable to tie his sneaker but those injuries were the only negative Wednesday, especially when a YES Network report surfaced that Derek Jeter will return Friday night against Minnesota.
The big tack-on inning featured Vernon Wells batting for Hafner. Cano led off the sixth with a single, followed by a Wells single, a walk to rookie Zoilo Almonte and a grand slam from Lyle Overbay.
Seven of the season-high eight runs at Yankee Stadium came via home run making it feel like last year when some people complained about too many home runs.
“Of course [it was big],” Cano said. “How many games do you score eight runs and lose at home? It’s good the way we played.”
“It’s nice,” manager Joe Girardi said. “I take it on a day-by-day basis, but obviously when you get a big lead you can do some different things. It is nice but I’ve said all along we’re going to have to win a lot of close games this year and we’ve been pretty good at it. But it’s nice to win a game 8-1.”
The Yankees exceeded seven runs for the seventh time all season and won for the seventh time in their last 10 games.
Nova continued the course set by Hiroki Kuroda, Phil Hughes and CC Sabathia, who combined to allow six runs in 20 innings only to see the offense fall short. Nova dominated, allowing just consecutive two-out singles in the first and fifth inning.
“I’ve always believed in Ivan,” Girardi said. “It’s a guy that I’ve had high expectations for because of the stuff that he has.”
Nova was at his sharpest during a 12-batter stretch spanning the final out of the first to the second out of the fifth. He needed just 38 pitches to get five ground outs, three strikeouts, two line outs and a pop up.
The only significant trouble for Nova came when he loaded the bases on a walk to Alex Gordon with two outs in the fifth. Following a mound visit from pitching coach Larry Rothchild, Nova retired Alcides Escobar on a fly ball to shallow left field.
Nova retired nine straight Royals before losing his shutout bid on an RBI double by Eric Hosmer in the eighth.
“Nova was doing real well,” Overbay said. “He was pitching real well and I think adding a couple of extra runs maybe [helped], but he was doing just fine.”
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.