Nova Locks Up Orioles Bats
By HOWIE RUMBERG AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK (AP) _ After popping out with the bases loaded in the fifth inning, all Vernon Wells wanted was another shot to help make a winner of Ivan Nova.
He got one all right: Ninth inning, bases jammed.
This time Wells came through. He singled in the winning run with one out, helping a marvelous Nova and the New York Yankees beat the Baltimore Orioles 3-2 Friday night for their season high-tying fifth straight win.
“Given the way we played in Minnesota we needed to come here and continue that momentum,” Wells said of the Yankees’ four-game sweep of the Twins. “It took a little while, but Nova kept us in the game all night.”
Nova (3-2) gave up a two-run homer to Matt Wieters in the second inning then stifled the Orioles the rest of the way in a spot start for Hiroki Kuroda. He allowed three hits in his first career complete game, struck out 11 and walked one.
Baltimore closer Jim Johnson (2-7) took over the ninth with a 2-1 lead and gave up a leadoff single to David Adams. Brett Gardner reached when Johnson failed to field his bunt for an error in front of the mound.
“The thing that really changed it was screwing up the bunt,” Johnson said. “That was trying to do too many things at once instead of just taking the out.”
Ichiro Suzuki then sacrificed the runners to second and third and Robinson Cano was walked intentionally to load the bases for the second time Friday _ to vociferous boos. Manager Buck Showalter made a mound visit and Johnson promptly walked Travis Hafner to tie it.
The struggling Wells then grounded a single past diving third baseman Manny Machado and ran toward first with his arm raised in the air. He was mobbed by his teammates and doused with a sports drink during an interview on the field.
“Those are times like when you turn a triple play where you see the kid come out in us,” Wells said.
Manager Joe Girardi said Wells earned a start because he played well during the series in Minnesota, but he ended the night still hitting just .235.
The Yankees snapped a five-game skid _ including a sweep last weekend in Baltimore _ against the Orioles this season.
The Orioles have lost three of four. Johnson blew his sixth save of the season, and second in last four opportunities.
Nova lost his place in the rotation after an ineffective start to the season and going on the disabled list. But he kept Baltimore off-balance all the way through. The 26-year-old right-hander came off the mound after getting the third out in the ninth to high-fives and pats on the back from his teammates.
“It’s unbelievable feeling the way I’ve been throwing the ball lately,” Nova said. “To put myself in the position I am right now.”
The Yankees’ steadiest pitcher since last year, Kuroda came through a bullpen session Friday without problems. Depending how he feels Saturday, he could take his next turn in the rotation. Girardi said after the game Nova will “probably start again.”
The memory of the long homer Chris Davis hit against him last weekend in Baltimore may have caused Nova to throw a little too inside to “Crush” to start the second. After hitting Davis with a pitch, Nova gave up a drive to Wieters that bounced off the top of the wall, just out of the reach of Wells, and into the left field stands for a 2-0 lead. Wieters came in batting .429 (9 for 21) with three homers against Nova.
But that was all Nova would give up, dominating the Orioles with a nasty curveball. Nate McLouth’s single leading off the sixth was Baltimore’s only hit after the second.
Nova got some help from a steely defense. Luis Cruz, the latest fill-in for Derek Jeter at shortstop, made two nifty grabs of grounders and strong throws for outs in the third. Then second baseman Cano made a pair of difficult plays to keep the Orioles off the bases in the fourth inning.
Cruz drove in New York’s first run in the fourth with a single to left field off Miguel Gonzalez. Wells, on second base, slid into home just ahead of Wieters’ tag. Wieters slapped Wells high on the leg as Wells’ cleat scraped home plate. Showalter came out to dispute the bang-bang play with plate umpire Gary Darling.
The Yankees then loaded the bases with one out in the fifth against the pitcher with the best road ERA (2.99) since the start of 2012 _ minimum 100 innings.
They came up empty.
Adams walked leading off. One out later Suzuki doubled to right field and Cano was walked intentionally. Gonzalez then fell behind 3-0 to Hafner before getting him to hit a fly to center field that was too shallow for Adams to test Gold Glover Adam Jones’ arm. Wells then popped out to first base.
Gonzalez was done after six innings and 104 pitches. He yielded one run and four hits, but tied a season high with five walks _ one intentional.
“Miguel was fortunate,” Showalter said. “But that’s him. He’s going to bend, but not break. You give up four (walks), I think five with an intentional, you have to consider yourself lucky to get through that with one run.”
NOTES: Orioles LHP Wei-Yin Chen (right oblique strain) will throw Saturday or Sunday and the team will then make a decision. If he comes out without any issues, Showalter said he could be activated from the DL in five or six days. Showalter said a six-man rotation was an option after Chen returns. … Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez’s third rehab game _ Class-A Tampa _ was postponed by rain.
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