Ivan Nova has never had an April ERA below 5.00. That trend continued yesterday when he gave up seven runs in 3.2 innings, en route to a 14-5 loss to the Baltimore Orioles.
Thank goodness for Kelly Johnson. Without his eighth inning solo home run the Yankees would have suffered a double digit defeat at the hands of the Orioles. Instead, they only lost by nine runs.
That fact, plus the fact that Dellin Betances seemed to recover from his shaky outing in Toronto, were the only two positives to take away yesterday. Every Orioles hitter in the starting lineup had at least one hit and most of them had at least two. Baltimore had 20 hits before the disastrous game was over.
The blame for this one lies squarely on Yankees pitching. Even though they were down 3-0 before they took their fist cuts, the offense did what they could. However, whenever the Yankees scored, Nova, and later, Vidal Nuno, gave the runs back and then some.
Expectations were high after Nova's dominant ending to the 2013 season and his strong Spring Training. Nova was adamant that whatever lessons he’d learned during his demotion to the minors in 2013 had been absorbed for good and that he had no intention of repeating the experience. During Spring Training, he was quoted in the NY Daily News as saying, “I can’t sit there and wait to start pitching bad, get taken out of the rotation, then pick it up. I can’t let that happen again.”
Obviously that’s easier said than done. The enigmatic right hander has an unsightly 8.68 ERA through his first two starts.
The Yankees and Nova need to figure out the answer. This pattern of him struggling early in the season, the Yankees sending him for a late spring / early summer soul searching sojourn to the minor leagues, and him having an epiphany upon returning to the majors is not a recipe for success.
Nova is currently lined up to start under the bright lights on Sunday Night Baseball against the Boston Red Sox. With no off days between now and then, Joe Girardi doesn’t have much wriggle room to schedule Nova for a less daunting task.
The Yankees need Nova to step up and show that he deserves to be in a major league rotation for six full months rather than riding the buses in the minor leagues for three.