Kevin Youkilis' grand slam keeps Ivan Nova in tailspin

Ivan Nova reacts after giving up a home Ivan Nova reacts after giving up a home run to Chicago White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko during the fourth inning of a baseball game. (Aug. 21, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

advertisement | advertise on newsday

CHICAGO -- It goes without saying how badly the Yankees need CC Sabathia in their rotation to end up where they want to this season.

How much they need Ivan Nova in it at all is open to debate and sure to be discussed within the organization in the coming days.

The 25-year-old righthander has struggled since the All-Star break and the trend continued Tuesday night in a 7-3 loss to the White Sox in front of 24,247 at U.S. Cellular Field.

"I'm not happy," said Nova, who allowed six runs and seven hits in six innings in falling to 1-4 with a 7.28 ERA in eight starts since the break. "I'm just mad. I'm not doing my job and I don't feel good about it."

The Yankees (72-51) did keep their four-game lead over the Rays in the AL East as Tampa fell to Kansas City, about the only positive from the night, to go along with Derek Jeter's homer on the first pitch of the game that sent the shortstop past Eddie Murry into sole possession of 11th place on the all-time hits list with 3,256.

With Nova (11-7, 4.92 ERA) not showing many signs of getting out of his funk, the Yankees very well might consider having David Phelps move into Nova's spot. Phelps is stretched out and he's pitched well in two starts filling in for Sabathia, due to come off the disabled list Friday.

Joe Girardi, asked several different ways about Nova making his next start, didn't completely quash the idea of a change.

"We haven't talked about what we're going to do," Girardi said. "Our plan is for him to start and we'll see what happens."

Not that the manager believes Nova has pitched well.

"It's substantial, he's struggled the second half, there's no doubt about it," Girardi said. "First half [of the season], he was good, really good for us. But he's struggled. You have to find a way to turn it around. You have to reach down and find a way."

Nova said of his rotation spot: "I'm not worried about that."

Nova, 10-3 with a 3.92 the first half, allowed two home runs Tuesday night. Kevin Youkilis' grand slam in the fifth inning to right was the most damaging as it gave the AL Central-leading White Sox (67-55) a 6-2 lead. Paul Konerko's 21st home run of the season, a solo shot in the fourth, tied it at 2.

"It seems like his focus is there, it might be something mechanical," catcher Russell Martin said of Nova. "But he's always been kind of a loose arm that kind of slings it up there. But right now, all I see is that the ball's being left up a bit, especially his fastball."

Girardi sees the issue as mechanical. "You see him make one good pitch, it's [having] consistency in your mechanics," Girardi said. "He knows what he has to do."

For Jeter, who leads the majors in hits with 168, it was his 29th career leadoff homer, which extended his franchise record. Next on the all-time hits list is Willie Mays at 3,283.

But Jeter and his teammates were mostly quiet after the first against Francisco Liriano (5-10), who came in 1-0 with a 4.79 ERA in four starts since being acquired by the White Sox from the Twins. The lefthander allowed six hits in six innings, striking out seven and walking three.

Jesse Crain replaced Liriano to start the seventh and gave up Martin's 13th homer to make it 6-3.

The White Sox made it 7-3 in the eighth, getting a run off Derek Lowe, who has allowed a run in back-to-back appearances after being unscored on in his first two outings as a Yankee.

You also may be interested in: