TORONTO -- This is becoming an every-five-days occurrence: Ivan Nova starts a game. Nova leaves early, followed by him, his manager and his teammates trying to explain what went wrong.
New York Yankees
But once again, Nova was a puzzling mixture of the sublime -- a beautiful curveball that froze Jose Bautista for the last out of the first inning -- and the ridiculous -- leadoff baserunners in five of his six innings (he faced two batters in the sixth, retiring neither), four walks, a hit batter, recurring deep counts resulting in a maddening inability to work late into the game.
And afterward came the usual criticisms, justifications and self-flagellation.
From Joe Girardi: "I thought he threw the ball OK. It was the long counts that got him. He’s got to be able to give us more than 90 pitches."
From catcher Chris Stewart: "Obviously the results are not what you’re looking for in being able to repeat (his delivery). He’ll throw one pitch down and away, and the next pitch will be up and in. But we gotta get there. And when he’s able to repeat it he’s going to be real good."
And from Nova himself: "I feel good. My velocity is not down, I’m throwing hard. I’m just not repeating. There's no consistency. I feel like I can do better than this, I know I can do better than this so I just have to go and try to find a way to do it.”
Yes, I know you've heard it all before. And five days from now, you'll probably hear it all again.
-- Nova's potential replacement in the rotation, David Phelps, had his second straight horrible day, allowing three runs in three innings, including a rocket of a two-run homer to J.P. Arencibia in the seventh.
-- Vernon Wells, who once again brought out the worst in the usually-polite Toronto crowd, capped off a good weekend by going 2-for-5 and starting a key double play with a spectacular leaping catch of Edwin Encarnacion's long drive to the wall in left.
-- Travis Hafner pulled into a five-way tie for the team lead in stolen bases along with, among others, Brett Gardner. Each got his first of the season in the third inning. It was the 10th stolen base in Hafner's 12-year career and first since 2010. When he was asked if he thought he could keep up with Gardner all season, Hafner smiled and said, "You never know."
-- Chris Stewart hit his first home run since last July 28, a solo blast off the left-field foul pole in the third inning.
-- Kevin Youkilis, who left Saturday's game in the sixth inning with tightness in his lower back, was not available today but Girardi said he thinks Youkilis will be able to play in Monday night's opener against the Rays in St. Petersburg.