Monday, March 3, 2014

Ivan Nova might be penciled in as the Yankees No. 4 starter to start the season, but today he pitched like a No. 1.

Making his second start of the spring, Nova brought his A-game, pitching three perfect innings while striking out four in the Yankees' 4-2 victory over the Washington Nationals Monday at GMS Field in Tampa.

“Love where he’s at right now,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

The Yankees were able to put together a four-run second inning off of Nationals starts Ross Detwiler and never looked back en route to their fourth straight victory of the spring.

Nova looked great from the start. Denard Span reached base on an error by Corban Joseph to start the game, but no body reached base off of Nova after that. He struck out the final two batters of the 1st inning, and then struck out Jose Lobaton to open the 2nd.

Nova compiled the four strikeouts over three innings, throwing 31 of his 36 pitches for strikes. He was attacking hitters, using his curveball very well, and overall, was pitching exactly how the Yankees are hoping he'll pitch this in the backend of their rotation.

"I was trying to attack the strike zone, trying not to walk anybody," Nova said. "You try to eliminate that here, not to carry that over, and then try to make adjustments. You try to be on a good roll for the start of the year."

Nova's battery mate, Brian McCann, was very impressed with the way that he threw the ball Monday afternoon.

"When you've got good stuff, you can pound the zone all day long and you can go right at hitters (ahead) 0-2," McCann said. "It doesn’t matter. He changes eye levels. He does so many good things. Today’s outing was beyond impressive."

The Yankees' four-run second inning started with back-to-back singles by Brian Roberts and Francisco Cervelli and then a double into left field by Kelly Johnson that scores Roberts and moved Cervelli to third. Ichiro followed with a ground ball to the shortstop that was thrown away, plating both Cervelli and Johnson from 2nd base.

Still with nobody out in the inning, Zoilo Almonte ripped a ground-rule double into the right field corner, putting runners on 2nd and 3rd. Corban Joseph followed up by grounding a single into right field, scoring Ichiro to make it a 4-0 game.

Brett Gardner struck out and Derek Jeter grounded into a double play to end the inning.

The Nationals didn't get on the board until the 5th inning when Zach Walter launched a solo homerun to center field off of Shawn Kelley, who only gave up the homerun in one inning of work, while striking out two.

Washington plated their only other run of the game in the 6th inning off of Danny Burawa, who was hurt by the ground ball. The Nats opened the inning with a couple of ground ball singles that put runners on 1st and 3rd, and then Jeter misplayed a double play ball, bringing home Eury Perez, cutting the Yankees' lead in half to 4-2.

David Robertson pitched the 4th inning behind Nova for his first outing of the spring. He hit the first batter he faces, but was able to get a flyout and a double-play for a pretty simple three-batter inning.

“It was OK,” Robertson said. “I got three outs. I can’t complain about that. I didn't walk anybody. I accidentally hit the first batter on my second pitch. It was a decent outing. I felt like my velocity was good. I was behind everything. I pulled maybe five or six pitches that I shouldn't have out of the zone. That was really it.”

Jeter is still looking for his first hit of the spring after going 0-for-3 today. Gardner doubled in the 5th inning after striking out in his first two at-bats. Cervelli collected two hits in three at-bats, continuing the odd trend of Yankees catchers hitting very well so far this spring.

The Yankees are back at it in Tampa tomorrow when they host the Baltimore Orioles at The Boss with first pitch scheduled for 7:05 pm EST. David Phelps will start the game for New York opposite Wei-Yin Chen for Baltimore. That game can be seen on YES.


Gavin Ewbank is the Lead Writer of Yanks Beat Blog


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