On a day when the Yankees got a career-high 12 strikeouts from starter Ivan Nova and scored five runs, including a two-run rally in the bottom of the ninth, nobody wearing pinstripes came away satisfied.
As good as those signs might seem on their own, the flip side was that Nova surrendered five earned runs, including a killer three-run homer to Cincinnati's Joey Votto, and sluggers Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano and Alex Rodriguez were 0-for-12, including a 1-2-3 eighth inning against Reds flamethrower Aroldis Chapman.
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The disheartening result was a 6-5 Yankees loss Saturday afternoon at the Stadium that was their fifth defeat in the past seven games.
Even the Yankees' ninth-inning rally was a case of good, but not good enough. On the one hand, they snapped an 0-for-22 streak with runners in scoring position when Nick Swisher's hard single drove in Raul Ibañez, who had doubled to begin the inning. A one-out single by Andruw Jones moved Swisher to third, and he scored to cut the deficit to 6-5 on a single by No. 9 hitter Jayson Nix, who tied his career high with three hits, including a solo homer in the fifth.
But Derek Jeter forced Nix at second, and Granderson grounded out to first to end the comeback a dollar short.
"We just didn't get the last hit we needed to put them away," manager Joe Girardi said. "It's good that we were able to come back, but it's frustrating that you get so close and you lose.
"We had some opportunities we weren't able to cash in on. You tie the game up 2-2, and then we go out and give them three runs in the top of the fifth. That really hurt, the three-run homer that Votto hit."
That was the blow still echoing in Nova's mind after the game. Eight of the first nine outs he recorded were strikeouts, but the Reds had a 2-0 lead at the end of three innings thanks to a run-scoring single by Brandon Phillips in the first plus doubles by Devin Mesoraco and Chris Heisey in the second that produced a run. Russell Martin's solo homer in the third and Ibañez's RBI double in the fourth tied the game.
But the Reds opened the fifth with two soft singles, and with one out, Votto tagged a slider into the rightfield seats for a 5-2 lead.
"The slider," Nova said with a shake of his head. "I feel the slider is a strikeout pitch when I get it down, but I can't get it down.
"I don't care about strikeouts. I don't like the way I'm pitching right now. I'm making a lot of mistakes like the home run. So I don't feel good about that."
In four of his past five starts, Nova has yielded at least five earned runs, and he saw his 15-game undefeated streak end in the second game of that stretch. The ankle injury Nova suffered in his previous start in Baltimore wasn't a problem, but catcher Martin said his command of his fastball wasn't as good as usual.
Nova blamed his problems on falling behind early in the count, then being forced to throw strikes. "I know I have good stuff, but no matter if I get strikeouts or not, I used to pitch a lot of ground balls," Nova said. "This year, I haven't. I just got to go back to work and do the same things I was doing last year getting my ground balls."
For a moment in the bottom of the ninth, it appeared the Yankees might erase Nova's mistake to Votto and their own struggles with runners in scoring position and right their world, but it didn't happen. Said Martin: "It just takes one day for that to change."
This wasn't that day.