Ivan Nova again erratic as Yankees lose to Blue Jays, 8-4

Ivan Nova delivers a pitch during the first Ivan Nova delivers a pitch during the first inning of a game against the Toronto Blue Jays. (April 21, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

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TORONTO -- The Yankees found some positives in Ivan Nova's previous start. "I thought he had a pretty good sinker, I thought he had a pretty good curveball that day,'' Joe Girardi said Sunday morning. "Those are his two main pitches, and he needs to continue to do that.''

Instead, what continued Sunday was Nova's maddening inconsistency. He was shaky from the start in an 8-4 loss to the Blue Jays in front of a sellout crowd of 45,575 at Rogers Centre.

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Nova left the game with a 4-2 lead but was charged with four runs in five innings-plus, allowing seven hits and four walks. His ERA rose to 6.14.

"I feel good with my mechanics; I'm just not repeating with my pitches when I have to,'' said Nova, who didn't get a decision. "I'll throw one good fastball and then the next one is . . . I'm not going to say the word. I think you have an idea what I'm going to say.''

Catcher Chris Stewart, who homered for the first time since last July 21, was almost as blunt.

Which pitch seemed to give Nova the most trouble? "Everything,'' Stewart said. "I don't think he really got a feel for any pitch consistently. One hitter it would be there, the next hitter it wouldn't. But he went out there and battled.''

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Nova entered the sixth with a 4-2 lead but walked Adam Lind after getting ahead 1-and-2 and allowed a double by J.P. Arencibia after getting ahead 0-and-2. That ended Nova's afternoon after 101 pitches, only 56 for strikes.

Losing pitcher Boone Logan gave up a broken-bat RBI single to Colby Rasmus and David Phelps allowed a two-run double by Brett Lawrie that put the Blue Jays ahead. Melky Cabrera's two-out RBI single gave Toronto a 6-4 lead.

"I thought the big at-bat was the walk to Lind,'' Girardi said. "I thought he actually threw the ball pretty well today, but that's an inning we need him to get some outs.''

Nova, who sometimes has appeared a bit misguided while analyzing poor outings, was critical of himself this time. "I feel good. It's not that my velocity is down. I'm throwing hard,'' said Nova, whose fastball consistently reached the mid-90s. "It's frustrating . . . I know I can do better than this.''

Phelps, whom some frustrated Yankees fans would like to see in the rotation instead of Nova, gave pause to that thought. After Lind drew his fourth walk of the game, Phelps allowed a long two-run homer to center by Arencibia in the seventh to make it 8-4. He was charged with three runs in three innings and also allowed two inherited runners to score.

"I just have to do better, that's what it boils down to,'' said Phelps, whose ERA ballooned to 6.23. "I'm just not really getting the job done right now . . . Like Joe said, I tend to live and die by pitching to the glove and not really getting the middle of the plate, and when I do get the middle of the plate, I can get hurt. It's a matter of staying away from the middle of the plate.''

Josh Johnson wasn't much better than Nova, allowing four runs, eight hits and three walks in 51/3 innings -- including consecutive bases-loaded walks to Lyle Overbay and Eduardo Nuñez in the fifth -- but his offense and bullpen allowed him to escape with a no-decision.

The Yankees (10-7), who were looking to complete a three-game sweep of the Blue Jays (8-11) -- just about everyone's preseason favorite in the AL East -- start a three-game series Monday night in St. Petersburg, Fla., against the Rays before returning to the Stadium for four games against the Jays, whom Nova figures to face again.

Girardi has said his rotation job is safe, and Nova said he isn't concerned about losing it. "I'm not worried about the rotation,'' he said. "I can just worry about myself.''

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Like last season, still plenty to worry about there.

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