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Yankees can't back Ivan Nova with just two hits, fall to Angels

ANAHEIM, Calif. - Through five innings Tuesday night Ivan Nova frustrated the Angels, giving them plenty of opportunities then yanking them away.

But two big swings by Albert Pujols and Erick Aybar in the sixth changed everything, the back-to-back homers sending the Yankees to a third straight loss, this one a 2-1 setback in front of 42,036 at Angel Stadium of Anaheim.

The Yankees (41-37), who were handcuffed by rookie lefty Andrew Heaney managed just two hits overall, and none after the third inning, scored one run.

"Bottom line is we didn't score runs, that's why we lost this game, not because of what Nova did," Joe Girardi said. "We just didn't do much offensively tonight. It's hard to figure out."

The Yankees may have also lost, though it isn't clear the extent of the injury, rightfielder Carlos Beltran, who tweaked his left rib cage area, which he said was "sore" the day before, during an at-bat in the fifth. He was replaced a half-inning later in right by Garrett Jones.

"That swing where I hit the foul ball [in the fifth] I felt a pinch," Beltran said. "I'll ice it tonight and hopefully tomorrow I wake up feeling better."

Said Girardi: "Any time a player leaves a game, you're concerned. We'll have to see how he is tomorrow."

Nova stranded six through five innings, holding the Angels (41-37) to 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position before Pujols led off the sixth with his 24th homer of the season and 13th of the month to tie it at 1-1. Aybar then smoked his second homer of the season to make it 2-1.

Nova, who threw 61/3 scoreless innings in his first start of the season last week against the Phillies, allowed two runs and eight hits over 51/3 innings. He struck out seven and walked two.

"Those were the only two mistakes that I made," Nova said of the pair of 92 mph fastballs Pujols and Aybar hit out.

Heaney, the Angels' top pitching prospect called up June 24 and making his second start, allowed one run and two hits over seven innings. The one run came on Mark Teixeira's 19th homer of the season, in the second, that made it 1-0.

"He was pretty straight up," Alex Rodriguez said of Heaney, who walked two and struck out seven. "He challenged us all night long with a lot of fastballs, pounded the strike zone and today he was just a little bit better than us ... For the most part the last two weeks we've swung the bats quite well and I'm confident we're going to continue to do that."

After Brett Gardner's two-out single in the third, the Yankees did not record another hit.

Joe Smith pitched a scoreless eighth, getting Stephen Drew to ground into a double play after Didi Gregorius reached on an error with one out, and Huston Street pitched a scoreless ninth for his 23rd save.

Teixeira put the Yankees ahead in the second, leading off by driving a 1-and-1, 92-mph fastball out to left-center to make it 1-0.

Nova navigated his way out of another jam in the second. David Freese and Matt Joyce led off the inning with singles. Nova struck out C.J. Cron and got Chris Iannetta to fly to right but walked leadoff man Johnny Giavotella to load the bases. Nova got Kole Calhoun to ground out to end the inning.

Nova, who stranded two in the first and left the bases loaded in the second, faced another jam in the fifth. He walked Iannetta, the No. 9 hitter, and Giavotella laid down a sacrifice bunt that moved him to second. Calhoun flew to left and Nova took care of Mike Trout, 2-for-2 on the night to that point, as the centerfielder bounced to third to end the inning.

Pujols came out swinging in the sixth, driving a first-pitch fastball into the bushes in center to tie at 1. The blast gave Pujols 16 homers and 32 RBIs in his last 31 games.

Aybar came next and drove a 1-and-0 fastball to nearly the same spot for his second homer of the season that made it 2-1.

The Yankees tried to get something going against Heaney in the seventh. Teixeira walked, bringing McCann to the plate. The catcher sent a liner back up the middle but it deflected off Heaney's glove and right to third baseman David Freese, the start of a 1-5-6-3 double play.

Rodriguez chose to look at the positives of the night, namely Nova's overall pretty good performance and that of Adam Warren, sent to the bullpen a day earlier, who pitched a solid 22/3 innings that included a strikeout of Trout.

"What I'm most encouraged about is tonight we saw a little preview hopefully of what the rest of the year is going to be like for us with Nova, with Warren," A-Rod said. "We have [Jacoby] Ellsbury coming back soon and Andrew (Miller). I'm really optimistic about the rest of the year."

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