The New York Yankees trekked up from Arizona to Oakland to start a four-game series with the Athletics on Thursday night. Despite his abrupt exit from the ballgame after just 62 pitches, Ivan Nova threw six strong innings of work to put a tally in the win column as the Yankees defeated the A's 4-1.
Making his third start of the 2016 season, Nova looked comfortable on the mound against the A's offense. While they rank near the bottom of the AL in most statistical categories, they had picked up steam heading into Thursday's matchup. However, that did not seem to bother Nova nor make him flinch. He allowed just one baserunner through his first three innings, and after a home run from A's outfielder Josh Reddick - the lone run of the ballgame for the opposition - he would allow just two more baserunners in the two subsequent innings.
Peculiarly, manager Joe Girardi went to the well to get Dellin Betances going despite the fact that he threw 31 pitches in his effort in Arizona on Wednesday night. Nova only threw 62 pitches in his six innings of work and had not allowed many baserunners at all. So even though the combination of Betances, Andrew Miller, and Aroldis Chapman would eventually shut the door in back-to-back-to-back frames, it was puzzling to see Girardi pull Nova, especially considering his recent comments about needing his starters to be more stretched out. Nova is obviously still a risky pitcher, but it was just odd to see Girardi give early hooks to him and Nathan Eovaldi on back-to-back nights.
Possibly counterproductive choices aside, it was imperative for the Yankees to get off on the right track, and they did. A double by Carlos Beltran plated the first run for the Bombers in the top of the third inning. The veteran outfielder made a baserunning blunder that likely cost his team a run on the following Brian McCann at-bat. With two outs, McCann hit a ball to Reddick that was promptly dropped. Beltran should have been running on contact, but he froze, only allowing him to reach third base and costing the Yankees a two-run lead.
Beltran would pick up some redemption in the top of the ninth inning, however. Facing A's reliever Fernando Rodriguez, he took him deep for a two-run homer that not only put the blunder behind him but gave his team the insurance they desperately needed. Beltran had a 2-for-5 day at the plate with three runs batted in and a run scored.
Another outfielder came to the rescue early on in the game to help ease the blow. Aaron Hicks socked a double that scored infielder Dustin Ackley in the top of the sixth inning to give the Yankees a 2-1 lead. It was Hicks' lone hit of the game in four trips to the plate, and an important one to say the least, as it came after another pair of baserunning blunders from Chase Headley (picked off) and Didi Gregorius (tagged out at second on a poor decision to stretch).
Brett Gardner had perhaps the best night at the plate of anyone who didn't drive in any runs. He went 2-for-3 with two walks to increase his OBP up to .377. Headley continued his recent string of good hitting with another rare extra base hit as he hit a double to left field in the top of the second. He would finish with two hits, while Gregorius and Jacoby Ellsbury joined the hit parade with one each to give the Yankees 10 on the night.
Betances and Miller kept their strikeout rates up as the duo combined for three on the night, even if they might have been unnecessarily drawn to the mound. Aroldis Chapman ended the night without feeling excluded, as he notched two of his own in the ninth en route to his fifth save on the season.
The Yankees will now turn to CC Sabathia on Friday night as he pitches in his homeland of the Bay Area. Opposite him will be A's ace Sonny Gray, who could give the Yankees fits if he's on his A-game.