As for Nova, he was rarely in trouble, and seemed to have little trouble getting out of it when he was. The Orioles put runners on the corners with no one out in the third, put Nova got J.J. Hardy to strikeout swinging, then induced a ground ball from Nick Markakis that the Yankees’ defense turned into an inning ending double play. In the fourth, Matt Wieters struck again for a one out double, but Nova again induced a swinging strikeout, this time from Mark Reynolds, for the second out before Eduardo Nunez made a fantastic play to take an RBI away from Wilson Betemit and end the inning. The Orioles finally did get to Nova a little bit in the 7th when Betemit and Chris Davis hit back to back doubles to lead off the inning, but Nova retired the next three batters in order to snuff out the rally in its crib and end his day on a high note.
In the meantime, the Yankees tacked on a couple more insurance runs on a 5th inning home run by Andruw Jones (off of a right handed pitcher), and an RBI single from Brett Gardner (off of a lefty) that plated Curtis Granderson. David Robertson and Mariano Rivera would be called upon to protect the 6-2 lead after Nova left, and they would finish the game for the Yankees with relative ease to nail down the Yankees’ first win of the season.
Ivan Nova: There’s no way around it, Nova was fantastic tonight, averaging a strikeout per inning without walking a single batter and throwing over 70% of his pitches for strikes. What’s more, five of his seven strikeouts came on swinging third strikes. All in all, it would be hard to realistically ask for more out of Nova than what he gave tonight.
Derek Jeter: The Captain continues his scorching start to 2012, going 4-4 with an RBI double and a run scored (and a particularly annoying sacrifice bunt, but we’ll leave that for another day).
Eduardo Nunez: Maybe I’m being overly charitable because I’m in a good mood, but Nunez was fairly non-awful in the box score. He made it an adventure at times, but his RBI sacrifice fly to bring in Jones was a timely piece of hitting that made the Orioles’ pay for Reimold’s error, and his great play at third saved at least one run and kept the Orioles from getting back any of the runs they’d allowed in the top of the inning.
Alex Rodriguez: A-Rod did draw a walk in the first inning, but after that he struck out swinging and had three ground outs to finish the game 0-4.
The Yankees are back at it with the Orioles in Baltimore tomorrow night, trying to build off of this win and continue to feast on the back end of the Orioles rotation. Freddy Garcia will make his first start of the season, and you can bet he’ll be looking to do his best Nova impersonation as he too tries to do his best to make it difficult for Joe Girardi to demote him whenever Michael Pineda and Andy Pettitte are ready to join the staff. He’ll be opposed by Baltimore’s rookie left-hander Wei-Yin Chen, who will be making his big league debut. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 P.M., and will be the first game of the season you can catch on My 9 (or MLB Network if you’re out of market).