“They’re hitting everything. It’s not one pitch in particular. They’re hitting everything.”
The words of Ivan Nova after another battering, frustrating loss last night. The Yankees fell in Detroit 7-2. Nova was rocked for seven runs on 11 hits, routinely leaving two-seam fastballs over the middle of the plate. Ivan Nova hasn't been the same pitcher since the All-Star break one month ago.
How bad has he been? Chad Jennings of The Journal News explains:
"Nova’s ERA is above 8.00 since the All-Star break, and he’s won once since June 17. He has allowed at least six earned runs four times this year, three of those coming in his past five starts."
Nova's ERA has jumped 0.73 due to the 16 earned runs he's allowed in his last two starts. This is a man that entered the All-Star break with a sub 4.00 ERA and six out of seven quality starts—several of them coming against the best teams in baseball. What's gone wrong?
Nova is most likely going through what all professional athletes go through at some point in a season or in their career: a slump. Nova has an excellent arsenal of pitches and his fastball sits in the mid-90s. When he's on, hitters are often left off-balance wondering if his sharp slider, curve ball or rising two-seamer is coming at them.
Rick Sutcliffe even suggested during ESPN's Monday night telecast—as Nova was being removed from the game by Joe Girardi—that the 25-year-old Dominican may need to go down to Triple-A to regain his confidence.
That sounds like a sharp appraisal and likely not the right solution for now but not one that is entirely out of the question considering the Yankees' aspirations and Nova's performance of late.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi is at a loss but he's also not willing to pull Ivan Nova out of the rotation and he quickly dismissed the notion following last night's loss.
"This a guy who has won a lot of ballgames for us."
A player who the Yankees are counting on to start winning more games for them—and soon. New York enters play Tuesday leading the American League East by five and a half games, though they've been slumping of late. The Yankees are 6-11 since July 19th and looking a bit wobbly entering the dog days of summer.
Ivan Nova will need to turn things around if the Yankees hope to hold onto first place and if he hopes to cling to a spot in the Yankees playoff rotation. Assuming Andy Pettitte comes back healthy, Nova will be fighting for the fourth starter spot with a resurgent Phil Hughes. For now, the Yankees need him to step up more than ever. Here's why.