‘Hart of the Order’
By Sean Hartnett
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Someone besides CC Sabathia needed to step up and carry their share of the load in the Yankees’ rotation.  A.J. Burnett continues to reach new levels of inadequacy, while Freddy Garcia is currently shelved with a lacerated finger and Bartolo Colon is hitting a roadblock.  Joe Girardi needs someone he can trust behind Sabathia and has finally found his man – Ivan ‘Super’ Nova.

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On Sunday, Nova rendered the Minnesota Twins hitless until through 3.1 innings pitched.  He kept Twins’ hitters off balance all day with his masterful slider and an array of pitch types.  The only jam he faced was in the bottom of the 5th when he surrendered a double to Danny Valencia that gave Minnesota runners on second and third with no outs.  Coolly, Nova struck out the next two batters and got Drew Butera to ground out to end the inning unscathed.

Nova went on to throw seven innings of shutout ball, racking up five strikeouts and only walked a single batter.  It’s the sort of performance Yankee fans have become accustomed to seeing when he takes the mound.  Even before his demotion to the minors, Nova had pitched strongly but now is soaring toward stardom.

Since returning on to the majors on July 30th, Nova has compiled a perfect 5-0 record with a 3.55 ERA.  Just like a bursting Supernova, Ivan has shined exceedingly bright since his call-up.  His strong form is opening the eyes of AL Rookie of the Year voters and many commentators believe that Nova will receive a considerable amount of votes at season’s end.

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Aside from a rough outing against the Kansas City Royals, he’s been a very consistent weapon at Girardi’s disposal demonstrating power, command and most importantly length.  Nova usually can extend himself to seven innings which allows Girardi to hand the ball to dominant setup-closer duo David Robertson and Mariano Rivera to finish the job.

That length makes Nova an ideal choice for Girardi to call upon come playoff time.  In the best-of-five ALDS, it is crucial to get off to a quick start and take the opening two games without suffering a loss.  With Nova backing staff ace Sabathia, the Yankees have two men who are capable of pitching seven innings or above and delivering leads to Robertson and Rivera providing the Yankees’ offense does their part.

While it is unclear whether the resurgent Phil Hughes, Colon, Garcia or even Burnett will get the nod as Girardi’s third ALDS starter, the Yankees have two men in Sabathia and Nova they can count on to get past their opponents in the opening round of the 2011 playoffs.  The task at hand now is figuring out which two from the other four can make up the other half of the Yankees’ rotation if they are to make a serious run at the World Series.

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Do you believe that Nova has what it takes to be a dependable playoff starter?  Who gets your nod to fill out the Yankees’ playoff rotation behind Sabathia and Nova?  Share your thoughts below and send your tweets to @HartyLFC.