Nova goes seven as Yankees shut out Braves, 3-0
ATLANTA -- The Yankees finally are on the roll Joe Girardi kept predicting they'd eventually experience, even when they were playing somewhat erratically in April and May.
And there's been nothing complex about why.
"It's all been with our starting pitching,'' Girardi said Monday night after his team beat the Braves, 3-0, at Turner Field to win for the ninth time in 11 games and 14th in 18. "That's how you put good streaks together.''
Ivan Nova was the latest to continue the trend, piggybacking on his eight-inning masterpiece against the Rays five days earlier with seven shutout innings against the Braves.
Nova even contributed a line-drive single in the second inning on the first pitch he saw this season.
The Yankees (35-25), now tied for first with the Rays, have seen their rotation turn it around this month. The unit is 7-1 with a 1.76 ERA in its last 10 games after going 9-8, 5.80 in April and 13-12, 4.15 in May.
Unlike his outing against Tampa Bay, Nova, who improved to 8-2 with a 4.64 ERA, didn't have his best stuff against Atlanta.
"The command of my fastball wasn't there,'' said Nova, who nonetheless allowed only five hits and a walk and struck out six. "It's easy when you have your best stuff to pitch. When you don't have your best stuff, you have to fight, you have to give your team a chance to win the game.''
Nova, backed by some outstanding defense -- including a home run-saving catch by Nick Swisher in the fourth -- gave way to Cody Eppley to start the eighth.
Girardi said Rafael Soriano was not available because of a blister on the closer's right index finger.
"He [Girardi] said to take today, come back tomorrow and see how you feel,'' Soriano said.
Of being able to pitch Tuesday, Soriano said, "I think so.''
It was a far from perfect night, though, as the Yankees again were dreadful with runners in scoring position.
But after that, the Yankees went 0-for-7 with RISP and stranded 11 overall.
"We had some opportunities to blow the game open and didn't get it done,'' Girardi said. "But tip your cap to our pitchers tonight because they did a great job.''
As did the defense, most notably in the fourth.
The first sterling play came from Swisher, who drifted back and jumped just before the wall in right to steal a home run from Brian McCann. The previous batter, Martin Prado, had reached on an infield single.
"I was going for it,'' Swisher said. "When I'm going back, I'd rather jump right before the wall than caught up against it.''
Said Nova, "Awesome.''
After a balk put Prado on second with two outs, Cano backhanded Freddie Freeman's one-hop smash and threw him out.
"It was good,'' Cano said of the team's defense, "but he pitched really good. But we supported him early and he maintained the lead.''
Raul Ibañez hit his 10th homer to lead off the second and A-Rod scored on a two-out wild pitch in the third.
Not that it matters.
"I don't think anybody in here's looking at the standings,'' Swisher said. "But it's nice to be back in the spot we feel where we belong.''