A lot went right for the Yankees in yesterday's win over the Orioles, especially from the pitching side, as Hiroki Kuroda and the bullpen held a strong Baltimore offensive attack to just two runs on Monday. Tuesday, however, was a much different story, as Ivan Nova and Vidal Nuno struggled badly in a game that featured 20 total hits and 14 runs for the Orioles.
It was an inauspicious beginning for Nova and the Yankees in the first. The inning started with an innocent single by Nick Markakis to center and continued with a weak ground ball by Delmon Young towards Derek Jeter at short. Generally, this is an easy double play, but with a near 40-year-old shortstop with very limited range, the ball scooted on by and into center field to set up first-and-third for the heart of the Orioles' order.
Instead of bases empty two out, it was runners at first-and-third with no out, and Chris Davis was able to plate Baltimore's first run with a sac-fly. The inning continued with Nova serving up a meatball to Adam Jones that was launched to Monument Park in center, giving the Orioles a quick 3-0 lead through just nine pitches.
The Yankees would respond in the next half-inning, however, with a two-out rally, starting with a Jacoby Ellsbury single. He now has a five-game hitting streak here in the early going. Carlos Beltran, batting right-handed with the left-handed Wei-Yin Chen on the mound, drove Ellsbury home with a double.
Baltimore would quickly add another run to the scoreboard in the second inning with a Jonathan Schoop one-out RBI double. Ryan Flaherty, who scored on the play, reached earlier in the inning on a well-placed bunt single. Francisco Cervelli, who was playing first base for the first time since he was 15-years-old, had to field the bunt, and Nova could have done a better job of covering first, but the bunt was very well-placed by Flaherty. All of a sudden, Baltimore had four runs after two, and it would have been worse had Steve Lombardozzi not been picked off at second.
The final blow for Nova would come in the fourth inning. The Orioles picked up three straight hard-hit singles with one out by Lombardozzi, Flaherty, and Schoop, who combined to go 6-for-6 against Nova. Markakis would add a sac-fly to make it 5-1 and Delmon Young plated another hard-hit single, good for a run batted in, to make it 6-1. Just like that, Nova's day was finished with only 3 2/3 innings recorded. There were some infield shenanigans in the beginning of his start, yes, but Nova was hit hard throughout his outing and really deserved this fate based on the way he pitched. On the day, Nova went just those 3 2/3 innings, allowed 10 hits and seven earned, while punching out three.
This was Nova's 84th career start and I think we have a pretty good idea of who he is at this point: a big right-hander who has electric stuff and has the ability to pitch like a front-line starter during sustained stretches of time. On the flip side, he can also struggle for sustained stretches of time thanks to his inconsistencies and lack of command. We're just two starts into 2014, so there's still plenty of time for him to right the ship, but so far Nova looks very much like the pitcher he did in his nightmare 2012.
Cesar Cabral, who is up from the minors for the injured David Robertson, would relieve Nova in the fourth and was able to get a weak ground ball to second from Chris Davis, which would normally end the inning. Unfortunately, with the infield shift, Brian Roberts had to come a long way to field the grounder, thus Davis was able to reach safely, adding Baltimore's lead to 7-1.
Coming into today, the Yankees had just one home run (second-fewest in the majors), and it came from an unlikely source in Brett Gardner. The Yankees would double that homer total in the fourth, thanks to an Alfonso Soriano solo shot to left field to cut the deficit to 7-2. Early-season hero Yangervis Solarte would continue his molten-hot hitting with a rocket RBI double to bring home Cervelli from first to give New York its third run. With Roberts reaching earlier in the inning on a single, this would set up the top of the lineup with a chance to do more damage with runners at second and third with one out, but were able to just get one run out of it with a Gardner RBI ground out; just like that, the Yankees were back in the game at 7-4.
With it still being a three-run game, Vidal Nuno, working in his second inning of the day, would give up a Markakis single followed by a long homer by Delmon Young to left, making it a 9-4 game. The Orioles would break double digits on the scoreboard, and, from there, the rout was on. Nelson Cruz would get Baltimore their 11th run on a sharp single to left, scoring Adam Jones. To make matters worse, Nuno served up another two-run homer, thanks to Matt Wieters, to make it 13-4 in the eighth.
Following a Cruz double over the head of Ellsbury in center, Joe Girardi finally pulled Nuno in favor of Betances to finish the game. An additional run scored after Nuno left; a ball that rocketed off Cervelli's glove at first was good for Baltimore's 14th and final run of the day. In total, Nuno pitched 3 1/3 innings, allowed eight hits (five for extra bases), two walks, and seven runs. By throwing 67 pitches, I wonder if the Yankees will send down Nuno to Triple-A in favor of someone like Shane Greene (please not Preston Claiborne), who can give the team length out of the 'pen if needed. With the Red Sox coming in this weekend, the Yankees could use as many fresh arms as possible.
There certainly weren't many positives in this game on the pitching side, but on the offensive side, there was Solarte. With two doubles, Solarte now is the first player in the Live Ball Era to ever have six doubles in his first seven career games. I'm pretty sure he's in the early lead for the Rookie of the Year award, you guys. Ellsbury and Soriano had good games, too, with the former recording three hits (two singles, one double) and the latter hitting his first homer of the season with a double and hit-by-pitch mixed in as well. Kelly Johnson, coming off the bench for Roberts in the late innings, tacked on a garbage-time solo homer in the eighth to finish the scoring at 14-5.
The Yankees will have to shake this one off and start again tomorrow in hopes to take two-of-three in the series. Masahiro Tanaka will make his Yankee Stadium debut, while the Orioles will send out Miguel Gonzalez. First pitch will be at 7:05.