Ivan Nova could have pitched well on Monday night and still wound up with a loss.
Justin Verlander struck out 14 and went the distance while allowing two runs for Detroit, the kind of performance that is tough to beat when things go right for you on the mound. Things did not go right for Nova, though.
Nova gave up 11 hits and seven runs in 5.1 innings, the fourth time in the last seven starts that he has allowed almost six runs. That kind of pitching has Nova sitting with an 8.36 ERA since the All-Star break after Monday night's 7-2 loss.
This one was more painful than some of the others because Nova's big meltdown came when he allowed three runs in the fifth, right after the Yankees had tied the game against Verlander to puncture his bubble of invincibility. But Nova, who the retrograde believed just knew how to win when he was riding run support to victories, crushed the Yankee spirit with a disaster inning.
For the second straight start, Nova's pitches hung over the plate the way humid air hangs over the city in August. Uncomfortable and unsustainable enough to force you inside earlier than expected to bathe in air conditioning and try to forget what's going on in the outside world.
That's not going to be easy for Nova, Joe Girardi or the Yankees. Nova looks like he needs a breather, but sending him to the minors isn't an option right now because the Yankees won't have another rotation option available until Andy Pettitte is cleared for duty a few weeks from now.
So Nova doesn't have much choice other than figuring it out on the fly, something that feels less likely every time he gets strafed by an AL club. Nova's only strong month this year was June, a month marked by interleague outings against lighter hitting National League outfits and that's hard to look at with much hope unless the Yankees make it to the World Series.
Nova's downturn has been one of several punches to the gut for the Yankees on the young pitching front, blows that are doubly painful thanks to the Yankees' desire to get cheaper in the years to come. It's not going to be possible to do that while remaining in contention unless things turn around.
Michael Pineda didn't pitch at all this season because of a shoulder injury, Manny Banuelos was just shut down after missing almost all year with an elbow injury and Dellin Betances was demoted to Double-A after struggling at the top minor league level. Those three were supposed to be part of the future, while Nova contributed to the present.
It's a total system failure, then, and one that is threatening to damage the Yankees both now and later.
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