Since last Oct. 4, the Yankees went one-and-done in the playoffs and opened this season with three straight losses.
“It was nice to shake hands in the line,’’ Mark Teixeira said after the Yankees halted the three-game slide with a 6-2 victory over the Orioles last night in front of 25,478 at Camden Yards.
The firmest handshake, the hardest fist bump and the loudest high-five should have been received by Ivan Nova.
“He set the tone,’’ Teixeira said of the right-hander who gave the Yankees their first quality start in four games and pitched very effectively in the clutch. “This was great for his confidence against a good hitting team.’’
Ron Sachs - CNP
SLUMPBUSTER: Ivan Nova delivers during his seven-inning effort in the Yankees’ 6-2 win over the Orioles, the Bombers’ first win of the season.
After CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda were spanked in the first two games and Phil Hughes couldn’t get out of the fifth Sunday because of a swollen pitch count, the Yankees needed a solid outing from a pitcher who had a miserable spring training.
“To win the first game of the year made me feel really good,’’ said Nova, who allowed two runs, 10 hits, fanned seven and didn’t issue a walk in seven innings.
It was his first action in a game that counted since leaving Game 5 of the ALDS last year against the Tigers in the second inning with a forearm problem.
“When I saw the first run,” Nova said, “ I knew I had a chance to win the game. When I get a lead, I feel really good about it.’’
Teixeira’s two-out single in the first off Brian Matusz scored Derek Jeter and gave Nova an early lead. He gave it back in the second when Matt Wieters, who went 4-for-4, homered. But three runs in the fourth when Russell Martin, Eduardo Nunez and Jeter drove in runs provided Nova with a cushion. Andruw Jones added a solo homer in the sixth and Brett Gardner, who replaced Jones in left, added an RBI single in the seventh.
Nova was able to limit the damage by holding the O’s to two hits in 12 at-bats with runners in scoring position and getting inning-ending double plays on sinking fastballs in the third and fifth innings.
“He threw well, especially when we needed it,’’ Joe Girardi said of Nova, who won 16 games a year ago as a rookie. “I wasn’t going to make too much of spring training. He had a lot to fall back on from last year.’’
Jeter went 4-for-4, had a sacrifice bunt and started those two key double plays.
David Robertson worked a scoreless eighth, and despite it not being a save situation, Mariano Rivera recorded the final three outs.
“We had a very disappointing weekend in [St. Petersburg],’’ Teixeira said of losing three straight to the Rays and starting the season 0-3 for the first time since 1998. “But nobody changed anything.’’
When the Yankees shook hands on the field, Nova was inside the clubhouse waiting for his hand to be slapped, knuckles to be bumped and fingers crushed by winning handshakes.
Sabathia is clearly the ace, but after him there are questions from No. 2 to No. 5. Michael Pineda was supposed to be an answer but nobody knows when he will be seen again. Andy Pettitte could be an answer but it’s no guarantee he even makes it back to the big leagues.
Off one game, Nova has a chance to be much more of an answer than any of the other four starters behind Sabathia.
Mark Teixeira, the Yankees, the Yankees, Ivan Nova, Derek Jeter, the Orioles