Nova disappointed with final regular-season start
BALTIMORE -- Yankees right-hander Ivan Nova concluded the regular season healthy after returning from Tommy John surgery, but none of that seemed to matter on Saturday after he lost to the Orioles, 9-2, in the first game of a split doubleheader at Camden Yards.
In his final two starts, Nova had a chance to help the Yanks get closer to an American League Wild Card berth this past Monday against the Red Sox, and on Saturday, assure that his club would host the Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday night.
Neither of those things happened.
"I wasn't good enough," Nova said. "When you lose, it's never good enough. We came out here to win games. It's not fun when you don't win."
The Yanks clinched the Wild Card spot behind CC Sabathia over Boston on Thursday night at Yankee Stadium. They're set for another shot at claiming home-field advantage in the nightcap on Saturday with rookie Luis Severino on the mound.
Starting Severino on Saturday night essentially ices him out of a relief role in the Wild Card Game, Yankees manager Joe Girardi said after the Game 1 loss.
"He's not a kid, who has pitched out of the bullpen, so we'll see what happens," Girardi said.
Any combination of one Yankees win and one Astros loss would secure home field advantage for the Yanks. Both teams have two games remaining, with the Astros concluding their regular season against the D-backs in Arizona on Saturday night and Sunday.
The Yanks will finish in Baltimore on Sunday behind Michael Pineda.
If the Yanks finished tied with the Astros, the Astros would host the Wild Card Game at Minute Maid Park by virtue of their 4-3 record against New York this season.
Nova had a chance to make a big difference, but he lost to Boston on Monday night, 5-1, and came out of Saturday's game in the sixth inning, charged with eight hits and five runs. In his most important two starts of the season, he was pelted for nine earned runs on 15 hits, including three home runs.
When asked to assess his season, which began on June 24 after more than a year's absence because of the surgery, Nova said: "Bad."
When asked why he felt that way, Nova added: "Well, I lost 11 games. I didn't pitch the way I wanted to pitch. That's how I see it. I gave up a lot of runs, a lot of hits, a lot of home runs, and I lost a lot of games. I was struggling the whole year."
Nova has a 6-11 record with a 5.07 ERA to show for his 17 starts. At times, he had his old dominance, but over the course of the season, he was inconsistent at best. Nova declined, though, to blame his woes on the aftermath of his surgery.
"I'm not talking about Tommy John anymore," he said. "It has just been over and over again every start. I didn't pitch good over [the course of] the season. That's all I can say about it."
The rule of thumb, though, is that pitchers seem to struggle the first season after returning from that surgery and then throw better after that. Girardi said Nova's struggles wouldn't preclude him from a spot on the postseason roster if the Yanks ascend to an AL Division Series.
And Girardi certainly wasn't as hard on Nova as the 28-year-old was on himself.
"I thought [Nova's return] was pretty successful," Girardi said. "A lot of times Tommy John guys have trouble with their command when they come back. I think he'll be much better next year. I think he'll be more consistent. He had some really good starts for us, and then he had some that he struggled with.
"The good thing is that he's healthy and he's throwing the ball hard. Now it's just the consistency."