"We've had a pretty good team over the years, that's one thing," Girardi said, trying to explain the success. "That's like the question I'm always asked about why it's so tough to go play the Angels in L.A. Well, they're a good team. That's a big reason for it, and we've had a pretty good team."
In this one, Ivan Nova pitched seven strong innings, holding the Braves to five singles in leading the Yanks to their fourth straight win, which followed a three-game weekend sweep of the Mets at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees scored one run in each of the first three innings against Braves starter Randall Delgado.
Instead of starting the ninth inning with Rafael Soriano, who blew a save opportunity in Sunday's 5-4 win over the Mets, Girardi turned to righty Cory Wade for the inning's first out, then got the final two outs from lefty Boone Logan. Girardi used four relievers behind Nova, and that quartet retired all six hitters it faced in the eighth and ninth.
Soriano was held out because of a blister on his right index finger. The finger had a bandage around its tip in the visitors' clubhouse after the game, but Soriano said he had warmed up before the game and could've pitched.
"It's just a real little blister on his finger," Girardi said. "My thought is that he'll be available [on Tuesday]. He said it was OK, but I wasn't comfortable, so I gave it a day."
The Yanks have now won nine of their last 11 games, and with a 35-25 record that's tied for the best in the AL, they pulled into a first-place knot with the Rays in the AL East. That led Girardi to agree before the game that the defending division champs are now beginning to hit on all cylinders, despite some notable missing parts: Brett Gardner, David Robertson and Mariano Rivera.
Nova (8-2) is tied for the AL lead in wins and lowered his ERA to 4.64. He walked one, whiffed six and is now 24-6 over the last two seasons. Girardi and Nova both said the young right-hander wasn't perfect. He needed some big plays behind him on a night when he banged out his first Major League hit: a solid second-inning single.
Nova helped himself defensively by snaring a third-inning liner back through the box off the bat of Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons. Nova quickly flipped to first base, doubling up Jason Heyward.
"I didn't see that ball; I just reacted," Nova said.
Even bigger was Nick Swisher's fourth-inning catch above the yellow line atop the right-field wall to rob Brian McCann of extra bases.
"That's baseball," McCann said. "You're going to play games like this. You're going to play a lot of games like this over 162 games, where you hit some balls good and they get caught."
Offensively, the Yankees made Nova sweat. They were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position and stranded 11 overall. The Yankees are 19th in the Major Leagues with 186 runs scored in those situations and 27th with a .220 batting average.
"Let's try something new and not talk about it," Girardi said. "Maybe it will change."
But there were big blows in this game: a two-out double in the first inning by Alex Rodriguez that was followed by Robinson Cano's RBI single, and Raul Ibanez's 10th homer, which opened the top of the second. The third run was scored by A-Rod on Delgado's bases-loaded wild pitch in the third.
Nova and the tandem of relievers made it stand up.
"I didn't have my best stuff today, but I made the pitches when I had to," Nova said. "The command on my fastball wasn't there like last time. I got help, big-time. Swisher was awesome. I enjoyed watching that play out there."