NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) – The Yankees have lost three straight following their eight-game winning streak, but they won’t have to deal with any of the Los Angeles Angels’ top three pitchers as the series continues.
They’ll also turn to a starter who’s building a pretty good track record of his own.
Coming off one of the best starts of his young career, Ivan Nova tries to win his seventh straight decision, secure his spot in the rotation, and help snap the Yankees’ skid Wednesday night in the Bronx.
Nova could have been facing Jered Weaver, who outdueled him June 3, but the ace’s six-game suspension opened the door for Los Angeles to call up prospect Garrett Richards to make his major league debut while also moving Joel Pineiro to the bullpen.
“You’re probably not going to be able to see a lot of video of the young man we’re going to face tomorrow, just because there’s not going to be a lot of video out there,” said Yankees manager Joe Girardi. “It’s, ‘See the ball, hit the ball.’ Be ready to hit from pitch one and get an idea of what he’s trying to do to you.”
Richards, a 23-year-old right-hander, was 12-2 with a 3.06 ERA for Double-A Arkansas.
“I think it’s great,” manager Mike Scioscia told the Angels’ official website regarding Richards’ first start. “I think it’s a great challenge for a youngster. … If he can come into an atmosphere like Yankee Stadium and pitch a good game, you know how much confidence you can take away from that?”
Bobby Abreu is 1 for 3 against Nova (10-4, 3.81 ERA), with a double in the Angels’ 3-2 home win June 3, but the Yankees’ right-hander hasn’t lost since. Nova improved to 6-0 with a 2.91 ERA in his last seven major league starts Thursday in Chicago, holding the White Sox to a run over 7 2-3 innings and striking out a career-high 10 in a 7-2 victory.
“That might be as good as we’ve seen him all year,” Girardi said. “He was excellent tonight. His slider, again, made a huge difference for him.”
Despite the excellent stretch, Wednesday’s start may still be an audition for Nova. With five starters already in tow, the Yankees were considering sending Nova back to the minors after the outing in Chicago, but his dominant performance combined with Phil Hughes’ appearance in the 10th inning Sunday made them reconsider – for now.
“(I) have a game in five days, no matter if it’s here or anywhere else,” said Nova, who spent most of July with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. “I’ll keep waiting and hopefully I’ll stay here.”
The Yankees have gone four consecutive games without scoring at least five runs for just the second time this season, but they’ve risen to the occasion when Nova’s been starting. They’ve given Nova 9.71 runs per nine innings since June 10, easily the best support in the majors.
They’ll likely need more from Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano if that’s going to continue. New York’s fourth and fifth hitters are a combined 4 for 31 over their past four games.
New York (69-45) watched its winning streak disappear with Saturday’s 10-4 loss at Boston, but its last two losses have been a bit more difficult to take.
Mariano Rivera blew a ninth-inning lead in Sunday’s series finale, then failed again in a non-save situation in Tuesday’s opener against the Angels (64-52). With the score tied at 4 in the top of the ninth, Rivera surrendered a two-run homer to Abreu – the former Yankee’s second blast of the game – that provided the difference in a 6-4 loss.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Abreu, who has a .443 on-base percentage, four homers and 19 RBIs in 21 regular-season games against the Yankees since leaving New York. “You never expect as a hitter you’re going to hit a homer against Mariano.”
The win kept the Angels within 1 1/2 games of AL West-leading Texas, while the Yankees fell 2 1/2 games behind Boston in the East.
Should the Yankees keep Nova around? Be heard in the comments below…
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