Fourteen months after his last start and rehabilitation from Tommy John surgery, Ivan Nova returned to the Yankees' rotation and instantly became their stopper.
Nova was the plug for a seeping group of starters that was largely responsible for a three-game losing streak, the last two to the last-place Phillies. The Yankees stopped their skid Wednesday with a 10-2 victory, but the 15-hit attack barely was mentioned. It was all about Nova, who held the Phillies scoreless on three hits over 62/3 innings.
Nova received a standing ovation from the 45,877 fans and a large dose of adulation from his teammates. "It was very impressive and it's great to have him back," Alex Rodriguez said. "Today Nova was a huge shot in the arm for us."
Nova got plenty of run support in outpitching Cole Hamels (5-6). Rodriguez had two hits and drove in two runs. He's now batting .290. Mark Teixeira returned to the lineup after receiving a cortisone injection for a stiff neck and had three hits and knocked in two runs. Jose Pirela had two hits and two RBIs. Chase Headley also had two hits and an RBI.
"Nova was great, exactly what we needed," Teixeira said. "The last two nights were tough games. We didn't hold them down very much, but it was great to see our pitcher step up today. I didn't see any anxiety, I saw a lot of focus. He got to smile a little after he came out of the game and enjoy himself, but he was locked in during his start today."
Nova said he didn't sleep much Tuesday night in anticipation of his return. "Somebody told me that he sleeps well before [a start]," Nova said of a fellow pitcher. "I told him he's a liar."
The righthander said he knew warming up in the bullpen that his stuff was there. He just had to keep his emotions in check. All the rehab, physical therapy and time in the minors was about to pay off. "I was able to keep calm and try to do my best out there," he said.
The Phillies, who pounded Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia on successive nights, did little against Nova. Ryan Howard doubled in the second inning and went to third on a groundout. But he was stranded there when Andres Blanco grounded out and Cody Asche popped out. In the seventh, an error by Nova allowed Domonic Brown to reach and after Blanco popped out, Asche singled. After Nova got Carlos Ruiz to fly out, he was removed for Bryan Mitchell.
The crowd let Nova know how they felt. "I never doubted I was going to be back in the big leagues," he said. As for what it meant to him to return, Nova said, "If I start telling you I think we're not going to finish. Being on a major-league staff is what you dream."
What did Joe Girardi like about Nova's start? "Everything," he said. "I thought his sinker was really good, his curveball was really good. His command of the strike zone, they hit the ball on the ground a lot. Everything. His pace. Everything he did."