BALTIMORE -- The New York Yankees had a big night Tuesday, coming back from a 4-1 deficit after five innings to beat the Baltimore Orioles, 7-5, on a pair of home runs by Alfonso Soriano, a solo shot by Mark Reynolds, two doubles by Alex Rodriguez and a relief-inducing appearance by Mariano Rivera, who snapped a personal two-game blown save streak to record a four-out save.
And yet, no silver lining comes without a black cloud around here this year: Nova left the game after six innings with tightness in his right triceps, A-Rod left the game in the middle of the seventh with tightness in his left hamstring and catcher Austin Romine left the game in the eighth inning with a suspected concussion after taking a foul ball off his helmet.
A-Rod, Nova and manager Joe Girardi all expressed optimism that the injuries would turn out to be minor; Girardi said he hoped to use Rodriguez as his DH for Wednesday night's game, and he was optimistic Nova would not miss a start. But assuming Romine has a concussion -- and he showed symptoms of one after taking a shot off the bat of Adam Jones -- the Yankees would be down to two catchers. Chris Stewart, who is a little banged up himself, and rookie J.R. Murphy, whose inability to keep Shawn Kelley's bouncing sinker from getting past him led to an Orioles score and tightened up a must-win game.
Nova said the triceps tightness is an issue he has dealt with throughout this season, even through his recent run of excellent performances (he was the American League Pitcher of the Month for August with a 4-0 record and 2.08 ERA), but had never mentioned it to the Yankees before Tuesday's sixth inning, when pitching coach Larry Rothschild asked him if he was OK after noticing a drop in his velocity.
"I couldn't lie," Nova said. "This game was too important."
So Girardi pulled Nova after just 79 pitches. Still, the manager expects Nova to be able to make his next scheduled start Sunday night in Boston against the Red Sox.
"It hasn't kept him from making a start yet," said Girardi, implying it wouldn't keep him from making his next one, either.
Rodriguez, whose first double drove in the Yankees' first run of the night and whose second led to them tying the game in the eighth, said he felt the tightness in his hamstring going from second to home on Robinson Cano's RBI single.
"I just felt a little knot coming around third," said Rodriguez, who raised his average to .301. "I iced it and saw the doctor. Both checked out OK. I'm optimistic about [Wednesday]."
No such optimism for Romine, who stayed in for one more pitch -- Jones struck out -- before being overcome by dizziness and nausea and leaving the game. He was taken to a hospital for tests. As Girardi observed, wryly, "We've got players coming and going."
But on balance, it was a huge night for the Yankees, especially coming one day after a dispiriting 4-2 loss on Monday. With all three teams -- Baltimore, Tampa Bay and Cleveland -- they are chasing losing Tuesday, the Yankees pulled within two games of the second wild-card spot with 17 left to play.
"I’ve said all along there’s no quit in this team and there’s a lot of character in that room," Girardi said. "They’ve fought all year long and they continue to fight. We’re down 4-1, Gonzalez is pitching a good game, guys put a couple of homers up and we’re right back in the game. You get big hit after big hit, so, no, this team just continues to fight."