Ivan Nova continues to make a compelling case to become a full-fledged member of the Yankee rotation, allowing just two earned runs in 10 ⅓ innings in his first two starts of the year. The extent of the White Sox offense Saturday was Todd Frazier’s line drive solo shot in the fourth inning. Nova left a two-seam fastball up and Frazier made him pay, but he was very impressive otherwise. Notably, 13 of Nova’s 17 outs came on ground balls. He’s thrown 61.9% two-seamers in 2016 according to Pitch f/x, easily a career high, and the result has been a 65.2% ground ball rate on the year. While that isn’t sustainable, it will be interesting to see if Nova has reinvented himself once again.
All of New York’s scoring came in the second inning. After retiring Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann to start the inning, Jose Quintana walked Headley and then allowed an RBI double to Aaron Hicks. Didi Gregorius followed that up with an RBI single to right. Didi was 3-3 on the day and is really starting to pick up steam of late.
Joe Girardi took no chances with his slim 2-1 lead. After Nova walked Frazier with two outs in the third, he brought in Dellin Betances, who would face four batters Saturday and record four strikeouts. Andrew Miller took the eighth, adding another two Ks of his own. Finally, the Cuban Missle retired the side in order to close out a 2-1 victory for the Yanks. New York’s three headed monster combined to pitch 3 ⅓ scoreless innings, striking out eight of the 11 batters they faced. This is exactly the sort of game Brian Cashman envisioned when he acquired Chapman this winter.
The Play: Aaron Hicks’s RBI Double Off the Wall (+.121 WPA)
The first blow of the game was off the bat of Aaron Hicks, a fly ball the opposite way that carried all the way to the wall and dropped in, allowing Chase Headley to score from first with two outs in the second. It was his 8th RBI of the year. Hicks has a 160 wRC+ in the last eight games of regular duty filling in for the injured Jacoby Ellsbury.
Yankees: Didi Gregorius (3-3, 2B, RBI)
White Sox: Jose Quintana (7 IP, 2 ER, 5 K)
- Luis Severino was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a triceps strain after leaving Friday night’s start in the third inning clutching his elbow. It certainly isn’t the worst case scenario in terms of an arm injury, but he won’t pick up a baseball for 5-7 days. The good news is this could partially explain the 22-year-old’s struggles with command in 2016. A DL stint might be more palatable than a demotion and may have the same effect. Hopefully he’ll come back with a clear head.
- Relievers Chad Green and Conor Mullee were called up before the game. One will take the spot of Severino, the other replaces Gary Sanchez, who was demoted back to Triple-A after just one day in the big leagues. Sanchez received his first career MLB start Friday, going 0-4 with a strikeout as the team’s designated hitter.
- Neither Green nor Mullee were on the 40-man roster, so to make room, Greg Bird and Bryan Mitchell were moved to the 60-day DL. Green and Mullee have been Triple-A Scranton’s most effective pitchers in the early going. The 24-year-old Green has a 1.22 ERA in seven starts, while Mullee has a 1.02 ERA in 18 innings over 11 appearances. Neither had pitched above Double-A before the year began.
- Jacoby Ellsbury entered the game as a defensive replacement for Carlos Beltran in the top of the eighth with Hicks sliding over to right. It was Ellsbury’s first game since suffering a strained right hip eight days earlier against the Red Sox. It was certainly a risky move for Girardi. If Ellsbury shows that he isn’t ready to come back and he ends up needing a DL stint after all, the eight days the team played short-handed will have been for nothing.
Alex Rodriguez shares a moment with a couple of young fans while handing out signed souvenir bats prior to Saturday’s game. It still amazes me what a complete 180 he seems to have undergone in the past year. He’s downright beloved in New York these days. It never gets old how he’s managed to redeem himself among Yankees fans.
Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka will face off against former Oriole Miguel Gonzalez, who took the recently released John Danks’s spot in the rotation, in the rubber game of this weekend series. First pitch will be at 1:05 EST.
Photo: Anthony Gruppuso / USA TODAY Sports