ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - For a second straight outing, Ivan Nova didn't have his best stuff.
But for a second straight start, he still found a way to pitch into the seventh inning.
Struggling with command issues much of the afternoon, Nova tied his career worst by walking six batters, but he allowed only two runs in 6 2/3 innings in the Yankees' 3-2, 11-inning victory over the Rays on Sunday.
He threw only 52 strikes in 102 pitches. "Nova battled,'' Joe Girardi said. "He threw a lot of balls, but he found ways to get outs and did a good job.''
Nova's biggest battle came in a 21-pitch first.
David DeJesus, acquired from the Nationals on Friday, singled for the first of his three hits and Ben Zobrist walked on four pitches to begin the inning. Evan Longoria, who went 6-for-13 with three home runs in the series, followed with a single to left to make it 1-0. But Nova somehow kept the damage to one run.
After walking Wil Myers with one out to load the bases, Nova got James Loney to ground hard to third baseman Mark Reynolds, who started an inning-ending 5-2-3 double play. It was the first of four double plays turned by the Yankees, three of them with Nova on the mound.
"My command wasn't there today,'' Nova said. "But I kept fighting through. That was the only thing I could do.''
Since returning from the disabled list May 25, Nova has gone 6-3 with a 2.47 ERA.
Nova's previous high in walks this season was the four he allowed April 21 in Toronto. He had not allowed more than two since July 27, when he allowed three.
"Even when I was behind in the count, I made some good pitches and got some ground balls,'' Nova said of his ability to avoid the big inning. "Those double plays helped.''
In his previous outing last Tuesday against Toronto, Nova allowed four runs in the second inning but managed to last 61/3 innings in what would be an 8-4 victory. He saved the bullpen again Sunday.
"Even though I walked six guys, I got to the seventh inning and I gave the team a chance to win the game, and we won,'' Nova said. "I'm not worried about that [six walks]. We needed a win and we got it today.''