The Yankees had gotten WHOMPED heading into this afternoon's series finale against the Philadelphia Fightin' Amaros. Like "34 runs allowed in the last 3 games" type of whomped. And they had Ivan Nova returning to the mound to make his first Major League start in over a calendar year today, which didn't spell good things for their chances of ending that trend. Coming back from TJS is always a tricky process, and typically it's a pitcher's command rust that causes the biggest problems early on. So of course Nova came out and threw 6+ shutout innings. Of course he did. That's just how this season has gone for the Yankees and the offense showed up to support him in a big way to drive a blowout, wrong-side-of-the-sweep-saving win.
Cole Hamels was the Phillies' starter, which spelled even worse things for the Yankees' chances coming into the game. But he was not at his best today and the lineup jumped on him early and often. The bottom of the order loaded the bases with nobody out in the bottom of the 2nd, and a Philly throwing error turned that into 2 runs on Jose Pirela's ground ball. The top half couldn't fully cash in on the second-third-no outs situation and it looked like a major chance had been wasted.
Then the 4th inning came and they dropped the hammer. Leadoff double by Didi Gregorius, Pirela walk, Brett Gardner RBI single, Chase Headley RBI double, and it was 4-0. After an A-Rod groundout, Mark Teixeira singled Gardner home to make it 5-0 and all but ensure Hamels' day would be a short one. He only made it through 5 innings on 102 pitches, and the Yanks beat him up for 8 hits and 3 walks.
This gave Nova plenty of cushion to work with, and he didn't waste it. It wasn't what you would call a "normal" Nova outing. He only struck out 1 batter all day, generated 7 swings and misses, and got more flyball outs than outs on the ground. He also attacked the Philly hitters with a good mid-90s fastball, threw his curveball for strikes when he needed to, and only walked 1 batter in 6.2 innings. He worked out of potential jams in the 2nd and 3rd innings and seemed to get stronger after that before leaving with 2 on and 2 out in the 7th. The Yankees were hoping for a good start from Ivan at the absolute best and he gave them a great one. Very interesting start to the 6-man rotation competition that will eventually go back down to 5.
The offensive onslaught didn't stop when Hamels left the game. The Yanks tacked on a run in the 6th on 3 singles against Jake Diekman, the last off the bat of Alex Rodriguez. They got 4 more against Justin De Fratus in the 7th, and A-Rod's 2-run single was the biggest hit. That turned the game into a 10-0 laugher heading into the late innings, and the bullpen combination of Bryan Mitchell (1.1 scoreless innings) and Diego Moreno (1 IP, 3 H, 2 R) handled the finish. Today was the type of game you would have expected from the Yankees in the first 2 games of the series. Ya just can't predict baseball, Suzyn.
- Hard not to be shocked and tickled by Nova's performance today. He didn't get a lot of whiffs or Ks, but to pitch scoreless into the 7th in your first game back from TJS, against any caliber of lineup, is very impressive. His velocity was there, his sinker was moving, and he threw some good curves. This was an encouraging first start back if nothing else.
- Great offensive balance today. 6 guys with multiple hits, 4 with multiple runs scored, and 6 who drove in a run. They beat the hell out of Hamels while he was in and didn't let up when the game got the bullpen.
- Amazing what happens when you get that kind of offensive production and strong starting pitching, huh? The Yankees should try to do those 2 things in the same game more often.
- Special shout out to the bottom of the order. JRM, Didi, and Pirela combined to go 5-12 with 3 BB, 5 R, and 2 RBI. 3 guys, 25 or younger, all in the lineup and contributing. I'll take that.
- 2-hit day for Headley, who's quietly put together a nice 7-game hitting streak. He has 11 hits, 10 runs scored, 3 RBI, and 3 BB in that span, and he's pulled his OPS within a game's reach of the .700 line.
- 3-hit day for Teix too in his return from his neck-related off-days. Guy just doesn't miss a beat.