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Ivan Nova shaky as Yankees lose to Rays

Ivan Nova #47 of the New York Yankees

Ivan Nova #47 of the New York Yankees pitches during the second inning of a game against the Tampa Bay Rays on July 29, 2016 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. Credit: Getty Images/Brian Blanco

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Ivan Nova didn’t help his trade value or the Yankees’ quest to remain in wild-card playoff contention in a 5-1 loss to the last-place Rays on Friday night at Tropicana Field. Nova (7-6) gave up two first-inning home runs, was charged with five runs and failed to make it through the fifth.

Teams that are in the market for a reliable starter might want to approach the Rays about righthander Jake Odorizzi (5-5), who threw 6 2⁄3 scoreless innings in which he allowed six hits, walked none and struck out five. The Yankees managed their only run in the eighth against reliever Dylan Floro on a two-out RBI single by Mark Teixeira to the opposite field against the shift.

Nova was well aware of his status as the main exhibit in a showcase game before Monday’s non-waiver trade deadline, and he had made his desire to stay with the Yankees clear. Joe Girardi was frank before the game in acknowledging that Nova’s free-agent status makes it unlikely that he will be back next year, but he said he didn’t seem distracted.

If anything distracted Nova, it was the strike zone of umpire Laz Diaz. Nova made that clear, yelling at him as he exited. Girardi also had a heated exchange.

“Ivan wasn’t pleased with the strike zone,” he said. “It was hard for me to tell, but I thought some looked pretty good. I think it was frustrating for him . . . [But] it was more of a command issue. He wasn’t commanding his fastball or his curve.”

By the end of the first inning, the four-game roll in which Nova had gone 2-0 with a 2.66 ERA was over, ended by two balls rolling around in the outfield seats. On Nova’s third pitch, Logan Forsythe hit his first career leadoff homer, a drive to left-center. With two outs, Corey Dickerson turned around another fastball, hitting a high drive to right-center for a 2-0 lead.

The five earned runs allowed by Nova tied his season high. Five of the six hits he allowed went for extra bases. Asked about his command, he said, “I fell behind to almost every hitter, so it was not good . . . I gave up two home runs on pitches in the middle of the plate, and that’s not the umpire’s fault.”

Nova yielded a leadoff triple in the third to Brad Miller, who scored on a forceout at second for a 3-0 lead.

In the fifth, Nova gave up a hit to the leadoff man for the third time as Miller doubled. On the next pitch, Evan Longoria’s double made it 4-0. When Steve Pearce reached on a one-out infield single, Girardi lifted Nova for Chad Green, who walked Kevin Kiermaier to load the bases before giving up a sacrifice fly to Steven Souza Jr.

Describing his exit interview with Diaz, Nova said, “I feel I made pitches where I should get the call. So I let him know.”

He insisted he wasn’t affected by the trade talk swirling around his name. “No, I wasn’t worried about it,” he said. “I have no control over it. I was rooting for my teammates.’’

Notes & quotes: In the Yankees’ last four games, they have allowed a home run on their starting pitcher’s first, sixth and third pitch. They have given up four first-inning homers in that span . . . The Yankees outhit the Rays 10-7 but went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10 runners. All 10 of their hits were singles . . . Green pitched 3 2⁄3 scoreless innings . . . Carlos Beltran, who largely has been restricted to a DH role, might play rightfield Saturday night. The Yankees play at Citi Field on Monday and Tuesday nights, and without the DH, Beltran will have to play rightfield to stay in the lineup . . . Reliever Bryan Mitchell (left big toe surgery) is scheduled to pitch a simulated game Saturday at the minor-league complex in Tampa as his rehab continues at a better-than-expected pace.


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