Ivan Nova came into camp this year as the presumed 4th starter, but he was quick to correct that sentiment, saying that spot should be earned by him. When I think of the rollercoaster year he had last year (sent down to AAA at the beginning, slowly brought back, and then burst forth with gusto), I think that was the proper sentiment and approach for this year. After all, if he wasn’t ready for a starter’s job come this April, it really should go to someone else. After today’s outing, I’m guessing that possibility of demotion is out the window and Nova is more than just “penciled in” for that 4th spot. I imagine it’s more like etched in stone.
The Braves play at Disney. And while you might expect everything to be Mickey Mouse and happy feelings, the Braves certainly weren’t the feeling like their Spring home was the “happiest place on earth” today. No, not with Nova on the mound for 6.1 innings, throwing heat and striking out 5 of their batters, only allowing 2 hits. Burawa, Greene, Cabral, and Betances each took 2 outs a piece to finish out the game and award Nova the win for today because not one Braves player ever crossed the plate for a score. Not that the Yankees had that much better luck off the Braves pitching; they just knew how to find the holes and weaknesses and capitalize on them like only the Yankees can. And they were patient enough to earn 11 walks off their pitchers. (More on that later.)
Right in the 1st inning, Brett Gardner walks, steals 2nd, advances to 3rd on Jeter’s fly out, and then scores on Carlos Beltran’s single. (1-0 Yankees) In the 4th, with 2 outs, Brian Roberts singles, Kelly Johnson walks, and they both score on Adonis Garcia’s solid double. (3-0 Yankees) In the 7th, things got complex (as baseball tends to do), Gil (pinch-run by Richardson) walks; Gardner walks; Jeter grounds into a force out, Gardner out at 2nd, Solarte in for Jeter at 1st, and Richardson now at 3rd; Beltran singles in Richardson; McCann grounds into a force out to score Solarte, Beltran out at 2nd, McCann is safe at 1st on a throwing error when they went for the double play. (5-0 Yankees) And in the 9th, Solarte, Romine, and Stevenson each walk to load the bases; then Dean Anna and Zelous Wheeler each walk and therefore each walk in a run. (Final score: 7-0 Yankees)
Here’s the thing about all these walks: they don’t make sense from the usually strong Braves pitching. I think back to the game on Sunday at Steinbrenner Field, and some of the radar guns were measuring mid- to upper-90s, and they were rather sharp in their pitching. I mean, I don’t think we were watching the next Glavine or Maddux, but they were pretty spectacular for Spring games. And while I can understand 3 or 4 walks per game, 11 is over the top, especially in that last inning where both runs were unfabulously walked-in, something I’ve made clear before is my least favorite way to score runs. I guess, we all have our off-days, but perhaps I’m just holding onto an old hope — a Braves-Yankees rematch in the Series.
Well, it’s still a long season to play, and like life, anything can happen.