Yankees-Nationals: Bombers Complete Sweep Behind Ivan Nova's Solid Performance

Doug Rush@Doug_RushSenior Analyst IJune 17, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 17:  Ivan Nova #47 of the New York Yankees pitches against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on June 17, 2012 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
Greg Fiume/Getty Images

The key to this weekend's series for the Yankees against the Nationals was pitching.

In the three games played in Washington, the Yankees got that from their three starters in Phil Hughes, Andy Pettitte and Ivan Nova.

On Sunday, the Yankees got another dominant pitching performance from Nova, as the 25-year-old hurled 7.2 innings, allowing one run on seven hits, walked one and struck out four.

Nova also picked up his ninth win of the season and improved his record to 9-2 and lowered his ERA to 4.32.

The only mistake Nova made against the Nationals was a solo home run by Adam LaRoche in the bottom of the second inning that made it 1-1.

Other than the solo home run, Nova kept the Nationals guessing all game and never gave up any crushing hits.

In Nova's last three starts, he's allowed two earned runs, which is why his ERA has dropped from 5.60 down to 4.32, all outstanding numbers for Nova.

The Yankees got on the board early on in the game with a sac fly RBI by Mark Teixeira in the top of the first that put the Yankees up 1-0.

After the LaRoche home run tied it at 1-1, Curtis Granderson hit his 21st home run of the season off Edwin Jackson, a solo shot, and put the Yankees back up 2-1 in the top of the fifth inning.

ATLANTA, GA - JUNE 13: Curtis Granderson #14 of the New York Yankees is congratulated by teammates after hitting a sixth inning home run against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on June 13, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Imag
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

In the top of the seventh, Robinson Cano hit a solo home run that put the Yankees up 3-1. Later on in the inning, a passed ball scored Teixeira that made it 4-1, and that was enough for the Yankees to put the game out of reach.

Rafael Soriano notched his 13th save of the season, closing out the ninth inning, and the Yankees won the third and final game, 4-1, and swept the series.

The Yankees allowed a total of six runs in the three games to the Nationals.

On Friday night, Hughes allowed one run through six innings. On Saturday night, Pettitte allowed two runs through seven innings, and on Sunday, Nova allowed one run over 7.2 innings, which are outstanding numbers.

The Yankees are now 40-25, in first place and remain 1.5 games up on the Orioles in the AL East.

The Yankees have now won nine in a row, as they will head home to start a three-game series on Monday night with the Atlanta Braves, a team they played one week ago at Atlanta.

We all know the Yankees offense can score, but if they can't pitch well, then they won't have a chance to contend for October.

But given the fact that the Yankees rotation is pitching well, it's a big reason why they jumped from third place to first place over the last month.

If the Yankees starters can keep pitching the way they are now, not only will they have a great chance to get to the postseason, they may have a great chance to get a championship this season.

Great pitching will be the key for the Yankees in 2012.

Can they keep it up for the rest of the season? Only time will tell.

Stay tuned, Yankees Universe.