Nova returns to form, win column against Jays

Nova returns to form, win column against Jays

Nova returns to form, win column against Jays
TORONTO -- Ivan Nova had been sputtering of late, admitting that his slider -- his best pitch -- was recently mimicking a changeup rather than a sweeping breaking ball.

Prior to Saturday's game, manager Joe Girardi said it was paramount for Nova to rediscover the feel for his slider, which he called his true "swing and miss pitch," and his right-hander went out and did just that.

Nova bounced back to strike out 10 batters and turn in one his best performances of the season, while Casey McGehee hit a three-run homer to power the Yankees to a 5-2 win over the Blue Jays in front of a sellout crowd of 45,582 at Rogers Centre.

"It was great, it was great. It was right where I wanted it," Nova said about his slider. "I think the confidence that I still have in myself is the key."

The 25-year-old had everything working, but it was his slider and curveball combination that had him missing bats all day. He recorded nine of his 10 strikeouts off those two pitches, but he also kept the Blue Jays off-balance by mixing in a fastball that was routinely hitting 93-95 mph, and as high as 97.

In his previous two outings, Nova had allowed a combined 16 runs and 21 hits over 10 1/3 innings en route to back-to-back losses as a starter for the first time in his career. After starting the season 10-3, Nova had just one win over his previous eight starts heading into Saturday.

His fortunes changed against Toronto, though, and he said he could tell it was going to be a good day after throwing his first slider.

Nova began the outing by retiring the first nine batters he faced and was perfect heading into the fourth before Rajai Davis broke it up with a single to center. The Blue Jays went on to score that inning, but Nova was already given a lead in the top half of the frame and did not relinquish it.

He lasted 7 1/3 innings, allowing two runs on five hits, while walking one to improve to 11-6. It was the third time this season that Nova has recorded double-digit strikeouts.

"He threw really well today. I thought his curveball was really good, spotted his fastball pretty well," Girardi said. "He threw a couple good sliders early on. His curveball has been more consistent than his slider during this tough stretch, so it was really good to see both of them."

Nova recorded at least one strikeout in every inning before being removed in the eighth, and he really had Blue Jays rookie Anthony Gose's number -- punching him out four times. It was one of Nova's longest performances of the season and his first win since July 8.

Girardi said he planned to stick with Nova regardless of his results Saturday, and Nova said that gave him a lot of confidence -- as did a talk the two had after he was rocked his last start in Detroit.

"He threw well. It's good to see that he went out there and threw the ball well," Derek Jeter said. "Everyone knows how good Nova can be when he is on, and evidently, he was on today."

Nova didn't need much help from his offense, but he got it when Mark Teixeira started off the fourth with a base hit up the middle. Andruw Jones would later walk to put two on with two outs for Jayson Nix, who was filling in at short for Jeter, who served as the designated hitter.

Nix hit an RBI single to left and then McGehee delivered a three-run homer, his first since joining the Yankees, to give New York a 4-0 lead.

"Even though it's a new organization, new team, it's still a game I have been playing for a little while," said a struggling McGehee, who went 2-for-4 with three RBIs and two runs scored. "Just have to get back to doing what I know I'm capable of doing. But at the same time, a home run, I can definitely feel myself relaxed a little bit."

Jeter added a ground-rule double in the sixth inning to make it a 5-1 game. With the hit, he joined Hank Aaron as the only two players in Major League history to record at least 150 hits in 17 consecutive seasons.

All five runs were charged to Blue Jays lefty Aaron Laffey, who lasted 5 2/3 innings and surrendered seven hits and four walks to fall to 3-3 with a 4.72 ERA.

The Yankees, winners of four straight for the first time since the All-Star break, will go for the three-game sweep Sunday. New York swept Toronto in a three-game set in the Bronx in mid-July.

Chris Toman is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.