Ivan Nova continues stellar season

With a 5-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays Tuesday night, New York Yankees starter Ivan Nova captured his 12th straight win. Nova went 7.2 innings and allowed six hits and no earned runs. His 12 straight wins by a rookie starter are the most since Larry Jansen of the 1947 Giants did the same.

The Yankees now have a six-game lead over the struggling Boston Red Sox, their largest margin of the season. New York can clinch a playoff berth with a win in one game of Wednesday's day-night doubleheader with the Rays.

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Here's a next-level look at how Nova got the win:

Nova threw his fastball less often than he normally does. Fifty-three of his 103 pitches (51.5 percent) were fastballs, below his season average of 61.3 percent.

Rays hitters were 3 for 14 in at-bats ending with Nova's fastball. Overall, hitters are hitting .196 in at-bats ending with Nova's fastball in September; they hit .297 against it before that.

Left-handed hitters were 2 for 11 against Nova, and he had success keeping the ball away from those hitters.

Thirty-one of his 52 pitches to lefties (59.6 percent) were outside, above his season average of 50.9 percent entering Tuesday. Rays lefties were 0 for 5 in at-bats ending with an outside pitch from Nova.

Rays hitters were 1 for 15 against Nova with men on base, including two double plays.

Nova stayed out of hitters' counts. Fourteen of his 103 pitches (13.6 percent) came when he was behind in the count, his second-lowest percentage in a start this season.

Elsewhere in the AL East, the Red Sox could not take advantage of the Rays loss and remained two games ahead of Tampa Bay in the American League wild card race. Starter Erik Bedard struggled against the Baltimore Orioles, throwing 76 pitches in 2.2 innings of work and allowing four runs (one earned), in a 7-5 loss. This is the 14th straight game in which the Red Sox did not get a quality start.

The Red Sox are now 5-15 in September, which is as many losses as they had in September and October of last season.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Red Sox have gone 22 straight games without winning two in a row. That's their longest such streak since the 1994 team had a 28-game run in May and June of that season.

The Red Sox used seven pitchers in their Tuesday loss to the Orioles. Since rosters expanded on September 1, the Red Sox have used at least five pitchers in a game nine times. They have used at least five pitchers in 45 percent of their 20 games this month.

Jonathan Papelbon recorded his second blown save of season. He'd converted 25 straight save chances and allowed his first run since July 16.

Meanwhile in Los Angeles, Clayton Kershaw got the better of Tim Lincecum and picked up his 20th win in the Los Angeles Dodgers' 2-1 win over the San Francisco Giants. The loss snapped the Giants' eight-game win streak and moved the Dodgers above .500 for the first time since they were 14-13 before games of April 30.

The Elias Sports Bureau tells us Kershaw is the fourth-youngest pitcher in Dodgers history to win 20 games in a season and the third since 1942 to defeat the Giants for win number 20 of the season.

Kershaw (20-5, .800) joins Justin Verlander (24-5, .828) and Ian Kennedy (20-4, .833) as pitchers with at least 20 wins and a winning percentage of .800 or better in 2011. There have been only two seasons in major-league history in which at least three pitchers won 20 or more games with a winning percentage of .800 or higher: 1910 (Russ Ford of the Yankees, King Cole of the Cubs and Chief Bender of the A’s) and 2002 (Barry Zito of the A’s, Randy Johnson of the Diamondbacks and Pedro Martinez of the Red Sox).

Dan Braunstein contributed to this story.