NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) — Here we go: Thursday night. Game 5.
It’s all on the line for the Yankees, and it won’t be their marquee star CC Sabathia on the hill. All eyes in the Bronx will instead be on rookie sensation Ivan Nova.
“I got the most important game of my life,” Nova said Wednesday. “I think (tonight) is the time to do what I’ve been doing the whole year. (It) is the time to step up for the team, because that’s the game that we’ll, you know, keep in the playoffs or we go home.”
The Yankees certainly aren’t feeling the jitters with Nova, who led major league rookies in wins with a 16-4 record and 3.70 ERA, on the mound. But for the Bombers to advance to the ALCS and have a shot for title No. 28, they’ll have to give him some support and get to Tigers starter Doug Fister.
“I feel good about him. He’s been successful for us all year long,” manager Joe Girardi said. “And I’ve seen him relaxed all year. That’s just kind of his personality….But when I say he’s laid-back, I don’t mean there’s not a fire inside of him. I love this kid’s determination.”
The Yankees and Tigers originally planned to use their aces twice in the series, but those plans went kaput when rain caused Friday’s opener to be suspended after 1½ innings and pushed back Sabathia and Detroit’s Justin Verlander to Game 3.
“Like I always say, if you get nervous, you’re going to be in trouble, because you can’t control yourself,” said Nova. “You can’t control what you got to do. I don’t see the reason why.”
Following the retirement of Andy Pettitte last winter, Nova earned the No. 4 slot in the rotation during spring training behind Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Phil Hughes.
By the end of the regular season he had moved up to second because of Burnett’s inconsistency and Hughes’ injuries. But when Hughes came off the disabled list on July 3, the Yankees sent Nova to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
His stint in the minors didn’t even last a month.
“A lot of times you’ll hear through the grapevine a guy complaining through friends or other people,” said Girardi. “I never heard him complain. He just went about his business. You know what? He’s made it so we can’t send him down.”
New York has not won the final game of a series pushed to the maximum since rallying past the Boston Red Sox in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS. Detroit hasn’t since beating St. Louis in Game 7 of the 1968 World Series.
“I don’t see the reason to feel pressure,” said Nova. “It’s another game. Of course, it’s the most important game of the season now.”
Yankees fans, do you have total confidence in Nova? Be heard in the comments below!
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