It’s hard to pick up a four game sweep in baseball. It’s harder still to do it on the road. But that’s exactly what the Yankees did Thursday night, beating the White Sox 7-2 in Chicago, their third consecutive decisive win in the series. The Yankees have now won seven consecutive games for the second time this season, and head to Fenway playing some of the best baseball we’ve seen all year.
For a while this one had the makings of a pitcher’s duel. Philip Humber was doing a decent job of keeping the Yankees off balance. His only mistake was a rocket home run to left field off the bat of Robinson Cano. It was 1-1 until the sixth inning when the Yankees took a 2-1 lead on a Curtis Granderson ground out. The Bombers didn’t begin to put day light between themselve on the White Sox until the seventh, when they added two more runs. The game looked pretty much in hand in the ninth when Russell Martin added a towering, three run home run, probably so Mariano Rivera could rest before heading to Boston. Hector Noesi pitched the ninth for the Yankees to close things out.
Much of the talk heading up to this start was how Ivan Nova would do, knowing that if he pitched badly he may find himself headed back to Scranton. The answer is brilliantly. Nova had arguably the best start of his career. He lasted 7.2 innings on an economical 102 pitches, striking out a career high ten, walking none, allowing just one run on six hits. The run, by the way, was a fluke. Nova himself botched a pitch out that allowed Alejando De Aza to move to second before coming around to score later that innings.
The biggest addition tonight was Nova’s change up. Brooks Baseball says he threw nine of them, seven for strikes, five for swinging strikes. Michael Kay mentioned that Nova was using his slider in the booth, but Brooks didn’t see that. It did, however, see a mix of four seam fastballs, two seam fastballs, curves, change ups and cutters. Nova mixed all the pitches to effect, and Joe Girardi correctly said to Kim Jones that making a rotation decision just became that much harder. (Quick update: Nova just said in the post game that he was using his slider; I’m just happy he was mixing his pitches.)
The Yankees are in an enviable position with six starters, one that will exist until something happens, which it always does. For my part I vote they rest A.J. Burnett, not for the rest of the season, but for his next start. Hughes and Nova earned their spots. A.J. didn’t. Leverage the extra starter to give Burnett some extra time to work on whatever it is that makes him pitch badly. Don’t reward failure and punish success.
The Yankees get Boston tomorrow, with Bartolo Colon facing off against Jon Lester. Boston lost, so the Yankees are now in a tie for first place with the Red Sox. The only blemish on the Yankees’ stellar season is that ugly 1-8 record against Boston. Hopefully they can make that a memory this weekend.