Ivan Nova came out for his first Major League start spitting fire. With adrenaline flowing to his lanky right arm, and his spirits lifted by a fantastic Gardner-to-Cervelli double play, he blazed fastballs of 97 and 98 miles per hour to get himself out of trouble in the first inning. And Yankee fans rushed to mlb.com to check the pitchFX to validate the startling reading on the YES gun. They were not disappointed by those results, but they were disappointed that the Jays won the battle of the bullpens, 3-2.
Coming into the 2010 season, River Ave Blues filed this report on the young hurler. After being unprotected in the rule 5 draft, claimed and quickly returned, Nova put a few nice starts together in Trenton in 2009, earned a promotion to Scranton. With most of the Yankee pitching talent in the low minors to start 2010, Nova was an easy choice to add to the 40 man roster this offseason as there was a good chance he could provide depth for the Major League staff if injuries or Javy Vazquez came to pass. And here we are.
Nova comes in with a reputation as a bit of a worm-killer. He’s a tall-drink-of water, and his motion and action on the fastball (after he calmed down and found his 94 mph groove) and lack of a quality second pitch, reminded me of Chien Min Wang. I really liked Wang, even when he was forced to carry the load as the Yankees de facto ace. A healthy Wang is an ideal back-of-the-rotation innings eater. Solid, if unspectacular. I doubt that Nova could be as good as Wang, but, for now, I’d like to see more of him and less of some other guys.
Aside from a good fastball, however, Nova did not show much else. Filed under “not much else” should be that lame curve that Jose Bautista hit into the stands to pad his league leading total. The game was tied in the sixth when Nova sent a high fastball Bautista’s way (did he expect another non-breaking curve?). Notice I didn’t say high and inside. It might have been a little off the plate, but it never had a chance to hit the guy. It was exactly like that time Manny Ramirez lost his junk and caused all that commotion when Clemens threw a high, but not-that-inside, fastball back in the 2003 ALCS.
Anyway, Bautista decided to take serious offense and was looking to hit one a thousand feet his next time up in the eighth. He came up a couple hundred feet short, but still deposited the game winning homer after turning on an inside heater by David Robertson. He styled to the extreme and relished his curtain call. Oh, how I wanted that to come back to bite his ass, but, alas. Earlier in the game, Flash mentioned Bautista has 38 home runs, and zero to the opposite field. He couldn’t imagine that the Yankees would pitch him inside in this series. He ended up hitting 2 inside pitches (mistakes, no doubt) over the left field wall for all of Toronto’s runs.
Bautista now has six home runs and twelve RBI versus the Yankees in 2010. And the Jays have taken six out of ten from the Yanks. The Red Sox already won, so all that’s left to do tonight is to root for the Angels (and clean the living room, do the dishes, take out the garbage, put the laundry away, check work emails). Go, uh, let’s see, Scott Kazmir. Hmm. That’s probably not going to work.
On another note, does anybody watch the Little League World Series? I tune in on occasion, but almost always turn it off quickly because the umpiring is so atrocious. The pitcher can get a strike any time he hits the catcher’s glove, no matter how far into the opposite batter’s box the catcher sets up. Jose Molina employs the same strategy. It never seemed to work for the Yankees, but it sure worked for the Blue Jays tonight. The one to Granderson in the ninth was closer to the on-deck circle than to home plate.