Ivan Nova came to play in his first start of the season, throwing six innings of three-run ball (and while that’s a fine outing, it seems like it might be time to revise the definition of a quality start given that a pitcher can have an ERA as high as 4.50 and still record one), scattering six hits, striking out three and walking one, as the Yankees beat the Twins 4-3 in the first of four.
True to 2010 form, Nova cruised through the first three innings before running into trouble in the fourth, sandwiching a pair of doubles around a single with two outs, including one of the RBI variety off the bat of Jim Thome. Nova gave up two more doubles in the fifth, yielding another run, but held strong against the heart of the Twins order in the sixth, inducing Delmon Young to ground into a big double play after a leadoff single by Justin Morneau and finishing the inning with a huge strikeout of Thome.
While four of the six hits he yielded went for extra bases, Nova deserves credit for keeping the ball in the yard, and not unraveling in the 5th/6th inning, as was often the case in his brief stint with the team last fall. Really, you can’t ask for much more from your fourth starter than three runs over six. The Yankees’ new bullpen endgame of Joba Chamberlain-Rafael Soriano-Mariano Rivera did its job again, combining for three scoreless innings and only yielding two hits.
On offense, it looked like the Yankees were about to explode yet again after a first-inning two-run blast by Alex Rodriguez (who flew out deeply yet again in his second at-bat and might already have four or five home runs if not for some unfortunate wind), and another two-run bomb from Jorge Posada in the second, but Scott Baker really bore down and kept the Yankees off the board thereafter until he came out after six. Kevin Slowey and Dusty Hughes also notched scoreless innings of their own.
If there are any negatives to be drawn on the offensive side of the equation during the first four games of the season, they would be in the form of Brett Gardner and Derek Jeter, who combined to go 0-7 with a walk in this one. In Gardner’s defense he did hit into some bad luck, but thus far the Yankees table setters are doing anything but.