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Sweet 16 for Nova

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By MIKE FITZPATRICK    AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK (AP) _ Ivan Nova pitched shutout ball into the eighth
inning, Curtis Granderson drove in four runs and the New York
Yankees moved within one win of a playoff berth by beating the
Tampa Bay Rays 5-0 on Tuesday night.

Granderson hit a three-run double and reached base four times,
boosting his MVP credentials as the Yankees slowed Tampa Bay’s
charge at rival Boston in the AL wild-card race. New York can
secure its 16th postseason trip in 17 years with one victory in
Wednesday’s day-night doubleheader against the Rays.

In fact, the AL East leaders are in with a win over Tampa Bay in
any of their six remaining matchups this season. And it won’t take
much more to wrap up the division title, too. The Yankees began the
day with a five-game lead over second-place Boston, their largest
of the season.

Tampa Bay remained two games behind Boston for the AL wild card.
The Red Sox lost to the Orioles 7-5.

One day after Mariano Rivera set the major league saves record
with No. 602, New York turned its attention to a four-game series
with surging Tampa Bay. Nova (16-4) worked in traffic all night but
the rookie never yielded, allowing six hits and three walks over 7
2-3 innings.

Solidifying his role as the team’s No. 2 starter, Nova improved
to 12-0 with a 3.09 ERA in 15 starts since his last loss June 3 at
the Los Angeles Angels. Despite a midseason demotion to the minors,
where he went 1-2 with a 3.38 ERA, the right-hander leads all major
league rookies in wins.

Nova’s ability to pitch out of trouble kept the Yankees in
control even though they went 1 for 7 with the bases loaded and
stranded 18 _ their most in a nine-inning game since Sept. 21,
1956, when they set the club record with 20 in a 13-7 loss at
Boston.

One of the few big hits was Granderson’s bases-loaded double
down the right-field line off Wade Davis (10-10) in the second.
Eric Chavez had an RBI single earlier in the inning following Nick
Swisher’s leadoff double.

The rally was helped along when Brett Gardner reached on a bunt
single to load the bases. It appeared second baseman Sean Rodriguez
had his foot on the edge of the first base bag as he took the throw
in time, but Gardner was called safe by umpire Scott Barry.
Davis and manager Joe Maddon argued the call, to no avail.
Granderson added an RBI infield single in the fifth, when first
baseman Casey Kotchman shoveled low to the pitcher covering.
Granderson also doubled in the seventh.

Tampa Bay put the leadoff man on four times against Nova,
including every inning from the fifth through seventh. But the Rays
couldn’t cash in.

Nova worked out of a bases-loaded, none-out jam in the seventh.
He retired Desmond Jennings on a shallow fly and screamed into his
glove after B.J. Upton grounded into an inning-ending double play.

Nova received a standing ovation as he walked off the mound and
tipped his cap to the sellout crowd of 46,944. Boone Logan and Luis
Ayala finished the six-hitter.

NOTES: Rays 2B-RF Ben Zobrist was not with the team following
the birth Monday of his daughter, Kruse. He is expected back
sometime Wednesday. … LHP David Price is on track to start Friday
night against Toronto. He left Sunday’s outing in Boston after
getting hit on the right side of his chest by a line drive. Price
went to the hospital for tests and checked out fine. He said he
would likely wait until Wednesday to throw a light bullpen session.
“I think everything’s going to be OK,” Maddon said. … Tampa Bay
needs a starter for Saturday and Maddon said the options are a pair
of rookie left-handers: Matt Moore and Alex Torres. Starters in the
minors, both were called up recently and have been pitching out of
the bullpen. “It’s a balancing act between _ of course you’re
going to do everything you can to win the game. But we’ve always
got to keep one eye on the future here, too. And the last thing I’d
ever want to do is hurt one of these kids,” Maddon said. …
Maddon was fined Tuesday but not suspended following his ejection
at Fenway Park on Friday night, when he criticized umpire Hunter
Wendelstedt’s “one-sided” strike zone. “A normal fine, which I
totally deserved,” Maddon said. “It was very fair.” … Rays
closer Kyle Farnsworth (sore elbow) played catch and plans to throw
a bullpen session Wednesday. Farnsworth has been sidelined since
his last appearance Sept. 10 but thinks he can return by the end of
the season. … Yankees manager Joe Girardi said backup catcher
Francisco Cervelli still has some concussion symptoms and is
scheduled to see a neurologist on Friday. “I’m not sure we’re
going to get him back,” Girardi said. … CC Sabathia goes for his
20th win Wednesday against the Rays.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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