After all the agita caused by A.J. Burnett's performance and subsequent tantrum, it was a pleasure to watch Sunday afternoon's outstanding performance by Ivan Nova. The result was a 3-0 win over the Minnesota Twins and concluded a 5-2 road trip. One of the leading candidates for AL Rookie of the Year, Nova was at his best in the 5th inning when the Minnesota Twins put two aboard with no one out.
After Jim Thome's lead off single, Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher nearly collided and missed Danny Valencia's fly ball for a gift double. Nova, not a strikeout pitcher, needed one with two runners in scoring position. Not only did he get one, but he got two. First Nova threw one a third strike past outfielder Rene Tosoni and followed it up by getting Matt Tolbert to chase a pitch out of the strike zone. Drew Butera then hit a harmless grounder to Mark Teixeira and a fired up Nova came out of the inning unscathed.
Nova improved to 13-4, 3.97 and has won his last six starts. Nova picked up the win in his last start despite having allowed seven earned runs in 5.1 innings. In the other five decisions, Nova has a 1.93 ERA, and has struck out 24 compared to seven walks. Overall, the rookie has won his last nine decisions, the first time a Yankees pitcher had done that since Whitey Ford was a pup in 1950. In doing so, Nova put himself at the forefront of the rookie voting along with Angels first baseman Mark Trumbo and Rays pitcher Jeremy Hellickson.
The Yankees wasted some early opportunities against Twins starter Nick Blackburn, who left the game in the 2nd inning with a forearm strain, but not before loading the bases. Lefty Andy Swardzak came back from a 3-0 count to strike out Eduardo Nunez and got Derek Jeter on a hard liner to right.
The Yankees finally broke through in the 6th when Robinson Cano doubled off Phil Dumatrait and came around on fly outs by Nick Swisher and Russell Martin. The Twins put two runners on in the bottom of the 6th, but Nova struck out Thome to strand them. And again the Yankees answered with offense in their half of the inning.
Curtis Granderson hit a deep drive off of Jose Mijares to right-center that appeared would be his 35th home run of the season. But the ball against one of Target Field's high walls and shot between centerfielder Ben Revere and right fielder Luke Hughes. Granderson raced around the bases and was waved home by third base coach Rob Thomson. Granderson slid in well ahead of the throw for an inside-the-park home run. The Grandy Man got his 35th after all to tie Jose Bautista for the MLB lead.
The Yankees weren't done yet though. Mark Teixeira, hitting from the right side, smacked a laser into the left field seats for a 3-0 lead. It was Teixeira's 34th of the season. Nova tired, but finished seven innings before turning things over to the pen. There was some more excitement in the 9th when David Robertson did one of his high wire acts. The Twins put runners on the corners with one out, but D-Rob struck out Jason Kubel for the second out. A Thome walk loaded the bases, but Robertson retired Valencia on a harmless fly to Swisher in right to end the frame.
Alex Rodriguez was activated prior to the game and went 0-5 in his first game since July 7. Aaron Laffey was sent to the minors to make room on the roster.
Derek Jeter had an infield single his first time up and finished the road trip 14-31 (.452).
The Yankees had Monday off before starting a three game series at home against the Oakland A's.
Factoid from the YES Network; since 2002, playoffs included, the Yankees are 62-20 against the Twins.