I apologize in advance for the not-so-clever Ivan Nova cliche but it must be said. Nova was super today. In his first outing since August 21, Nova pitched into the seventh inning surrendering only two earned runs – one was a Luke Scott single given up by Joba Chamberlain – and four hits while striking out eight Rays and only walking two.
Nova was on a pitch limit and when he surrendered a single to Jeff Keppinger to open the seventh inning he was taken out after having thrown 85 – 53 for strikes.
Offensively for the Yankees, Curtis Granderson and Eduardo Nunez went back-to-back in the second inning off Rays starter James Shields. Granderson’s two-run shot was his 39th of the season and Nunez’s solo shot was his first of the year.
After Nova was removed in the seventh – following the Keppinger single – Boone Logan replaced Nova and Ben Francisco bunted into a force out, Keppinger was out at second but Francisco made it to first. The next batter, Ryan Roberts, hit a double, advancing Francisco to third. Girardi replaced Logan with Joba Chamberlain, while Joe Maddon countered with Sam Fuld pinch hitting for Chris Gimenez.
That move worked out for the Yankees when Fuld grounded out to Chamberlain. The Yankees weren’t out of the woods yet and Luke Scott made them pay when he singled on a 1-2 pitch from Chamberlain, scoring both Francisco and Roberts, cutting the lead to 4-3.
Chamberlain got the next batter, Desmond Jennings to strike out on three pitches.
In the top of the 8th, David Robertson replaced Chamberlain and retired the Rays 1-2-3. In the bottom half of the inning, the Yankees scored an insurance run, thanks to the heroics of both Robinson Cano and Alex Rodriguez. Actually, we can add a third person to the equation, B.J. Upton who had trouble tracking down Cano’s ball and it turned into a double. Rodriguez followed with an RBI single, putting the Yankees up 5-3.
Rafael Soriano made things slightly interesting in the ninth. It felt like I was watching John Wetteland circa 1996. Things started off fine when he got Keppinger to pop out to Nunez. Francisco followed that up with a single and Ryan Roberts flied out to Granderson for the second out. Just one more out to go.
The crowd, both at the Stadium and watching on TV exhaled, Soriano untucked and the Yankees high fived, celebrating their 82nd victory of the year.