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Ivan Nova pitches gem to help keep Yankees' hopes alive

Ivan Nova of the Yankees reacts after the

Ivan Nova of the Yankees reacts after the final out of a game against the San Francisco Giants at Yankee Stadium. (Sept. 21, 2013) Credit: Jim McIsaac

Ivan Nova came up with a gem of a shutout when the Yankees needed it most.

Nova, coming off three straight poor starts, pitched a six-hitter for his second shutout in three weeks to lead the Yankees to a 6-0 win over the San Francisco Giants Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium. He was helped by a two-run home run by Eduardo Nuñez and Alfonso Soriano's solo shot.

The Yankees (82-73) remained three games behind Cleveland for the American League's second wild-card spot as the Indians beat the Astros, 4-1, Saturday night. With seven games left, the Yankees likely need to run the table to have a legitimate hope of making it to the postseason.

"This is what you need the rest of the way," manager Joe Girardi said. "It was a great team victory."

Nova (9-5, 3.13 ERA) walked one and struck out seven in the third complete game of his career, all of them coming this season. He had pitched a three-hit shutout against the Orioles on Aug. 31, but in his next three outings, he was 0-1 with a 7.07 ERA.

"Outstanding sinker, outstanding curveball today," Girardi said. "He threw a lot of strikes. He was ahead of hitters . . . I thought his stuff was really, really good today."

Nova allowed only two runners to get to second base and none to reach third. He said he was very upset with himself after his most recent performance against Boston, spent extra time watching videotape and noticed that he might have been tipping some of his pitches.

"I saw some things in the video. I worked on it and I fixed it," he said. "It's a good feeling, especially with the team and where we are. You want to win. I'm happy with the way I pitched today. We need games and we needed a win."

There was some thought that this game, sandwiched by Andy Pettitte's retirement announcement Friday and Mariano Rivera's send-off celebration Sunday -- with Pettitte starting against the Giants -- could have lacked an emotional edge. Instead, the Yankees put together a three-run third inning ignited by their Nos. 7 to 9 hitters.

Mark Reynolds and Brendan Ryan singled to put runners on first and third and Chris Stewart walked to load the bases with none out against Ryan Vogelsong (3-6). On Ichiro Suzuki's sacrifice fly, Giants centerfielder Angel Pagan elected to throw to third but couldn't get Ryan, and Stewart alertly took second on the play. Alex Rodriguez's run-scoring grounder to short and Robinson Cano's RBI single to left against the overshift -- with third baseman Pablo Sandoval inexplicably retreating to cover third instead of pursuing the ball -- made it 3-0.

Curtis Granderson led off the fourth with a single to right and Nuñez made it 5-0 with his second home run of the season, a drive to leftfield.

Soriano's sixth-inning solo shot to leftfield on reliever Guillermo Moscoso's first pitch was his 17th homer and 50th RBI in 52 games with the Yankees. Soriano, the fifth player in major-league history to have at least 50 RBIs with two different teams in the same season, has 34 homers and 101 RBIs overall.

The Yankees have outscored the Giants 11-1 in the first two games of the series behind strong outings by CC Sabathia and Nova. "If we play the way we've been playing the last two games, we can win each time," Soriano said.

Stewart said everyone in the clubhouse just has to concentrate on what he can do to get the team a win. "We have to win ballgames," he said. "That's what the formula comes down to right now. If other teams want to help us out, that's fine. But we have to take care of business first."

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