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Nova Shines Brightly for Yanks in Lone Star State

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New York Yankees starting pitcher Ivan Nova throws during the first inning of the baseball game against the Texas Rangers in Arlington, Texas, Friday, May 6, 2011. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

New York Yankees starting pitcher Ivan Nova throws during the first inning of the baseball game against the Texas Rangers in Arlington, Texas, Friday, May 6, 2011. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

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By STEPHEN HAWKINS
AP Sports Writer

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) _ Curtis Granderson quickly put the New York Yankees ahead with the first of his two homers into the upper deck.

That first-inning shot was more than enough for the Yankees, who ended their season-worst three-game losing streak with a 4-1 victory Friday night as rookie right-hander Ivan Nova kept the ball down and mostly kept the Texas Rangers from even hitting the ball out of the infield.

“Absolutely amazing, to come in and get as many ground-balls as
he did,” Granderson said.

Yet Nova (3-2), who allowed only two singles while pitching into the eighth inning, hadn’t even thrown his first pitch before Granderson put the AL East leaders ahead to stay in their first trip to Texas since losing in Game 6 of the AL championship game last October.

Granderson’s 433-foot drive into the second level of seats high above the Rangers’ bullpen in right-center made it 2-0 in the first. He hit his AL-leading 10th homer in the seventh, a towering solo shot closer to the right-field line but still in the upper deck for a 4-0 lead.

“Curtis was outstanding with the two home runs and giving us a lead. That’s always good for a young pitcher,” manager Joe Girardi said. “I expected him to be productive and hit the ball really hard, but 10 home runs?”

The early power surge is just as surprising to Granderson, who isn’t sure how to explain it.

“I don’t consider myself a power hitter by any means,” he said. “I know there are times where it’s possible, but even my batting practice, when we have home run rounds, I always lose that. It’s just one of those things, that if it happens, I need everything right. I need the ball to be in the right spot, be
squared up and the wind can’t be blowing in too hard.”

Nova struck out one, walked one and gave up an unearned run. Besides the two singles, the Rangers hit only four other balls out of the infield against the right-hander, who pitched past the seventh for the first time in his 13 career starts. He threw 62 of his 98 pitches for strikes.

“If you’re ahead in the count, you can work more comfortable because you can throw your pitches,” Nova said. “Get a lot of ground-balls. … I don’t feel like I have to strike everybody out.”

The only walk by Nova was to Mike Napoli with one out in the eighth, and the right-hander was out of the game a batter later before Texas scored.

After first baseman Mark Teixeira had a grounder ricochet off him into foul territory, he grabbed the ball and flipped to Nova covering the bag. Nova caught the ball cleanly but missed the bag with his foot, and Mitch Moreland was safe on Teixeira’s error.

Rafael Soriano took over and struck out Chris Davis before Julio Borbon’s RBI single.

Mariano Rivera worked a perfect ninth for his AL-leading 12th save in 14 chances. It was the right-hander’s first appearance since saving his third consecutive game Monday before New York lost
three in a row at Detroit.

Since a 9-1 start this season, Texas has lost 15 of 23 games. Matt Harrison (3-4) dropped his fourth straight start for the Rangers, though he settled down after the early struggles. The left-hander allowed three runs and four hits over six innings, with five walks and three strikeouts.

Granderson’s homer in the first came after Derek Jeter, back in the lineup after missing one game with a stiff hip, started the game with a sharp single.

New York added an unearned run in the second after Harrison’s throwing error, but the left-hander got out of a bases-loaded jam without giving up more.

Harrison recovered to get the ball after Jeter’s comebacker bounced away from him, but threw high over first base into right field, allowing a run to score. He then walked Granderson before Teixeira hit a foul pop and Alex Rodriguez swung at a 3-0 pitch for an inning-ending flyball.

“Other than the ball that Granderson hit in the first, they really weren’t hitting me that hard, it was just I was putting myself in deep counts and they were seeing a lot of pitches,” Harrison said. “After that, I said, `Just keep the ball down.”’

The popout by Teixeira started a stretch of 10 consecutive batters retired by Harrison until Rodriguez had a two-out single in the fifth.

Meanwhile, Nova was retiring 11 in a row and was helped by a fortunate bounce for a double play to end the sixth.

With a runner going and Robinson Cano moving toward second base to cover, Ian Kinsler hit a grounder up the middle. Cano fielded it, took a quick step on the bag and threw to first to complete the double play.

NOTES: It was Granderson’s eighth multihomer game. … Actor and Texas native Matthew McConaughey threw the ceremonial first pitch. The Rangers Baseball Foundation and McConaughey’s “just keep livin” foundation announced a partnership to create and fund after-school programs at three area high schools. … While the Dallas Mavericks played Game 3 of their NBA playoff against the Los Angeles Lakers about 20 miles away, most seats were also filled at Rangers Ballpark. The announced crowd was 49,069, the second-largest this season.

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