With a one-run lead and Chasen Shreve warming up in the bullpen, Ivan Nova was on the clock.
The Yankees' pitcher, making his fifth start since returning from Tommy John surgery, walked the first two Baltimore batters he faced in the fifth inning. They advanced to second and third on a sacrifice, bringing up leadoff hitter Manny Machado, then 1-for-2 with a double.
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But Nova rebounded (thanks to some outstanding infield defense), to get Machado and Travis Snider to ground out, stranding the runners and preserving the lead.
Machado was out when Mark Teixeira made a nice pickup of Chase Headley's throw. Stephen Drew ended the inning by making a fine diving stop of Snider's grounder in short rightfield, and made the toss to first with Nova covering.
He earned the win in the Yankees' 4-3 victory last night, improving to 2-3 on the season.
Solid work -- and worst case, not hurting the team on the mound -- was what Yankees manager Joe Girardi expected of Nova, he said before the game. Girardi said he had a "pretty good idea" of what Nova is capable of when healthy and performing well.
"We've seen the stuff that he's possessed before he got hurt," Girardi said. "Like every pitcher in baseball, sometimes you have your best stuff and sometimes you don't. But the one thing he's done, when he hasn't had it, he's kept us in games."
Nova put the brakes on a personal three-game losing streak, the worst slide of his career. Entering the game, he was 5-3 with a 5.03 ERA in 13 games against the Orioles. Nova surrendered seven runs over 32/3 innings his last time out against Baltimore on April 8, 2014.
"Obviously, you have to keep your pitch count down and you better locate on this team," Girardi said. "You better keep the ball down . . . They like to hit the ball out of the park."
The evaluation proved prophetic, as Nova's 93-mph, two-seam fastball was turned around for a two-run homer by Ryan Flaherty in the third inning.
Nova threw 94 pitches, 57 of them for strikes, through six innings. He allowed three hits, two runs, with three walks and three strikeouts.
Girardi said Nova did a better job of locating his fastball.
"He just made the big pitches when he had to," Girardi said. "I left him in there for the sixth and he did a pretty good job.
"I actually thought his stuff was better in the fifth and the sixth than earlier in the game. He's always capable of getting that ground ball. He had that ability."