The Yankees Grab First Place

Winning streak hits four as Yankees climb atop AL East

By Josh Alper
|  Tuesday, Jun 12, 2012  |  Updated 8:16 AM EDT
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Swisher's grab helped the Yankees snatch first place.

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Never accuse Ivan Nova of being a one-dimensional baseball player.

The Yankees were only looking for him to pitch a solid game on Monday night so that the team would be in position to beat the Braves and move into first place in the AL East.

After a start to the season that featured more injuries than hits with runners in scoring position and a fair number of questions about the fitness of the pitching staff, that didn't feel like asking too much.

Nova overdelivered. He pitched seven shutout innings to lead the team to a 3-0 victory, but he also used his bat and glove to help put the game in the Yankees win column.

The second inning featured Nova's first career hit, a well struck single to right field with two outs that made Randall Delgado work a little harder to get the Braves out of the inning. Nova was stranded, but the extra work early seemed to get to Delgado, who allowed one run in each of the first three innings and was out of the game after five.

Nova's glove came into play in the third with a runner on first base and no one out. Andrelton Simmons smoked a line drive up the middle that Nova grabbed with a hopeful stab of the glove and turned into a double play.

It wasn't the only great fielding play of the night for the Yankees, who also got great plays by Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher to help Nova out of sticky situations. Nova seems to specialize in pitching through those situations when he's on his game, he allowed the leadoff man to reach base in five of seven innings, and he was certainly on his game Monday night.

That shouldn't have been much of a surprise. Yankees starters now have a 1.77 ERA in 10 games this month, which has led to eight wins in 10 games and a rapid elevator trip up the divisional standings.

It's as traditional a story as there is in baseball. Good pitching solves almost every other problem, including a continued sputtering with runners on base that is starting to verge on a problem big enough to impact the presidential campaign.

The Yankees were 1-for-8 last night with the hit coming in the first when Cano singled home Alex Rodriguez after a double. Rodriguez would score another run in the third when Delgado threw a wild pitch with the bases loaded (apparently he didn't know he had the Yankees right where he wanted them) and Raul Ibanez hit a solo homer in the second.

Other than that, the Yankees didn't get anything from their offense but, as with most days this month, they didn't need all that much. The bats will likely come around at some point, but it's a heckuva lot easier to deal with the current state of affairs when the team is pitching as well as it is right now.

And because they're in first place, of course. That spot in the standings turns problems into annoyances with the snap of a finger.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.

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