Nine pitches into his second start of 2014, it was painfully apparent that Ivan Nova’s stuff was not crisp.
Adam Jones drove a poorly located 1-2 fastball well over the center-field wall for a two-run home run that put Nova in a three-run hole with one out in the first inning.
The rest of the day went just as poorly for Nova and the Yankees as they were handed an ugly 14-5 loss to the Orioles Tuesday afternoon.
“His sinker didn’t have a lot of sink to it and it was up in the zone and his curveball wasn’t very sharp,” manager Joe Girardi said. “So that’s not a very good combination for him seeing that those are his bread-and-butter pitches. He wasn’t sharp today.”
“It wasn’t a good day,” Nova said. “We got to figure out what’s going on. I don’t so feel good to be pitching the way I pitched today. I think there’s no excuse. I just was throwing the ball up and in the zone and you get hit like that when you’re up in the zone at this level.”
The last time Nova faced the Orioles at home was Aug. 31 when he pitched his second-career complete game. During a 2-0 victory, he allowed six base runners in a game that took 2:28 and that was mostly because of being able to maintain consistently good mechanics.
“It’s just my consistency,” Nova said. “Maybe my release point is not the same. It’s something I got to work on.”
Trouble began for Nova when Nick Markakis lined single to left-center field followed by Delmon Young lining a single that shortstop Derek Jeter was unable to catch.
“He did everything he could to make the play,” Girardi said. “It seemed to get through the infield very quickly but he did everything he could.”
“I know he tried his best to get the double play,” Nova said. “Unfortunately it didn’t work the way we want it to.”
It set the tone for the ugliest showing by Yankee pitching so far. The day started with the Yankees holding a 3.45 ERA and when it ended that mark rose to 4.90.
It was the second shaky start for Nova, who struggled at times last Thursday despite earning a win against Houston. It also raised some wonderment about the inconsistency of someone who finished second in the AL Rookie of the Year voting three years ago.
That’s because it continued a trend of poor starts in the first halves of season, struggles that led to Nova going to the minors for periods of time even as he vowed never to go there again.
“I think it’s important if he wants to go to the next level as a pitcher,” Girardi said. “Putting two halves together that are really good and that’s something that I think he’s more than capable of doing.”
The outing is not causing any panic, since the Yankees have seen him struggle and recover as recently as last season.
“I know he’s more than capable of turning this around and being a big-time pitcher,” Girardi said.
Besides the Jones home run, Nova allowed an RBI double to Jonathan Schoop, which occurred after rookie third baseman Yangervis Solarte was unable to make a diving stop.
The Orioles added three runs in the fourth inning on a sacrifice fly and five singles. Nova was gone after allowing an RBI single to Young.
It seemed the Yankees might rally from the six-run deficit when Alfonso Soriano led off the fourth with a home run. The Yankees were within 7-4 but the rally stalled when Jeter grounded out and Jacoby Ellsbury was stranded at third in the fifth inning.
Vidal Nuno took one for the team by allowing seven runs in relief, including two-run shots by Young and Wieters.
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.