After skipping the latest Phlobafest last night, I was determined to catch most of Ivan Nova’s performance tonight. He’s the flip side of the aching disappointment attached to Phloba – surprising success. Sadly, Nova’s not that great either.
He’s good when he keeps the ball in the park and works his magic escaping jams of his own creation. The ball left the park tonight, and as his pitch count ran north of 100, all those men on base began to score. The Yankee offense did next to nothing against Jake Arrieta and lost the rubber game of the series 5-0 to the Orioles.
Jake Arrieta deserves the game ball for this one. He threw hard fastballs on the corners and mixed in breaking balls when needed. But the well-placed fastball was enough. The Yankees hit few balls hard and never threatened. Arrieta went eight strong innings, a career high.
Nova kept the Yanks in the game for six innings, but he was always in trouble. As he lost control of the game in the seventh inning, the thin ice of the Yankee bullpen finally fell through. With injuries to two starting outfielders, the Yankees decided to go with a short bullpen this week and it cost them a chance to steal the victory tonight. Who can fault Girardi with leaving Nova out there to put the game out of reach when he was carrying only 13 pitchers? Hopefully everyone will be healthy by the weekend so he can restock his arms.
The good news is that when Eric Chavez had an unexpected head injury in the middle of the game, there was another player waiting there on the bench that could fill in for him. That’s the kind of circumstance a professional manager must be prepared for and fans like us would overlook. The thirteen man staff might have forced Girardi to stretch Nova, but he would have looked even sillier if he had to forfeit the game when one of his starters got hurt.
I think the Yankees will win their fair share of games this season, and probably contend for the postseason. But with this starting pitching it’s hard to imagine what a winning streak might look like. Phil Hughes throwing a gem? Arod carrying the team over a three-game set? Those things seem impossible these days. Even worse, Cano and Teixeira are making Alex look dangerous. The pitching is so weak after Sabathia and somehow, in the absence of Gardner and Swisher, the lineup scored three runs in an entire series against the Orioles. When the Yankees are rolling they find three-run homers in seat cushions.
The Yankees are currently built like a .500 team: a fantastic bullpen, a creaky, streaky lineup and a rotation so top-heavy, if it was a human pyramid, the bottom layer would be crushed to death. The lineup should improve with health and a little patience. The rotation, though, I don’t see it. Andy Pettitte has done a lot of wonderful things for the Yankees, but would turning this starting staff into a postseason threat be his most impressive?
Photos by Kathy Willens & Jim McIsaac/ AP