Vernon Wells singled in the winning run with one out in the ninth inning, helping a marvelous Ivan Nova and the New York Yankees beat the Baltimore Orioles 3-2 Friday night for their season high-tying fifth straight win.
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 and 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. 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 a diving third baseman Manny Machado and ran toward first with his arm raised in the air. He was mobbed by his teammates and then doused with a sports drink during an interview on the field.
Manager Joe Girardi said Wells earned a start because he played well during a four-game sweep of the Minnesota Twins but he ended the night still hitting just .235.
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.
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 Wieter's tag. Wieter's tagged 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.