The usual joyful exuberance from Ivan Nova had vanished as the Yankees starter searched for answers as to why he's lost the plate.
Thursday marked another rough start for the youngster, giving up four runs in 5 2/3 innings to Texas in a 10-6 loss. It's been a struggle for him the past two months, and as he stood in front of his locker, a typically cheerful and confident man instead seemed uncertain of himself.
"I'm just not throwing strikes," Nova said. "One day I'm going to find out what's the problem. Hopefully it can be tomorrow or the day after tomorrow so I can work on it for next time."
He added: "I'm looking every way to find out what the problem is. I don't think I found it yet. I'm not throwing strikes and that's the only thing I have to concentrate on."
Nova's second-half woes continued against Texas as he couldn't get out of the sixth inning in what was ultimately a no-decision. Nova is now 1-3 with a 7.02 ERA in his seven starts since the All-Star break and is 2-4 with a 5.32 ERA in 11 starts since June 23.
"Not good," Nova said in describing his outing. "I wasn't able to throw strikes again one more time and it has been tough this year. I know people are expecting more from me and I'm not happy with how I'm doing."
Nova entered Thursday's start looking to build momentum off his two-run performance against Toronto last Saturday. Granted, Toronto's lineup is banged up at the moment, but the right-hander looked as good as he had in a month against the Blue Jays.
Right away, Nova ran into trouble, surrendering a two-run single on a soft hit to center to give the Rangers the early edge. He worked his way around further damage that inning, as well as a bases-loaded, no-outs jam in the second, keeping it at 2-0 through five.
In the sixth, his control problems cost him, although a lost ball in the sun didn't help him. Including an intentional walk to Mitch Moreland, Nova fell behind six of the seven batters he faced. Five of those seven batters reached and Nova was yanked after walking Mike Olt to loaded the bases with the Yankees down 4-0. Nova surrendered seven hits and walked four. His ERA rose to 4.76.
Of the 27 batters Nova faced, he threw a first-pitch strike to just 12. He encountered a groin issue during the game, but said he's not concerned with it and pitched through it.
"I was looking forward to having a better one today and unfortunately I didn't," Nova said. "We have a month and a half left so I have to do everything to finish strong."
At this time last year, Nova was in the middle of his winning streak, cementing himself as the Yankees' No. 2 starter for the playoffs. Now, he's battling to make sure that he will be in the rotation for October, although he hasn't done much to lock up a spot lately.
Nova doesn't seem concerned with October rotation plans, putting stock in the trust he's accumulated over the past two seasons instead of the questions this stretch has raised.
"I always say that I don't think I have anything to prove," Nova said. "If my manager still has confidence in me he's going to put in the postseason. No matter if I throw good this month or the next month. If he feels that way he's going to put me in the rotation."