June 2013

Few positives in shellacking to Orioles

After an 11-3 loss there is not much positive to dwell on. The Yankees were out of Saturday night’s game early as the Orioles scored four runs in the first inning and had a 9-0 lead in the third against David Phelps. Ivan Nova replaced him and pitched pretty well for 5 2/3 innings to save the bullpen.

Normally, I am critical of clubs that carry more than 11 pitchers. It just seems to me that a six-man bullpen ought to be enough. The Yankees are currently carrying 13 pitchers, which leaves the manager with a three-man bench of position players. That may not be a major problem in the American League where there is less pinch hitting because of the designated hitter. Still, when one of those bench players is someone like Travis Hafner, who no longer plays in the field, the situation can hamper a manager.

On the other hand, the Yankees are in a stretch of games on 20 consecutive days. And with Phelps failing to get through the third inning, Joe Girardi probably felt better about having the extra arms in the pen. This was a real turnaround for Phelps, who had been undefeated over his previous nine starts dating to Aug. 27 last year against AL East competition with a 4-0 record and 3.91 ERA over that period covering 53 innings. Saturday night’s line for Phelps was truly ugly – 2 1/3 innings, 9 hits, 9 runs, all earned, 2 walks, 1 strikeout, 2 home runs – as his ERA rose from 4.01 to 4.95.

Chris Davis showed why he is a Triple Crown candidate by driving in five runs with his 29th and 30th home runs of the season. His three-run shot off Phelps in the first put the Orioles in control. Davis’ second homer was a two-run shot off Nova, the only blemish on his appearance. Phelps also gave up another three-run homer, to Ryan Flaherty in the third, that ended his outing.

For the second straight night, the Yankees banged out 11 hits but scored only three runs. They had 3-for-16 (.188) with runners in scoring position. This marked the fifth straight loss by the Yankees when facing a left-handed starting pitcher. Zach Britton gave up two runs (one earned) in 5 2/3 innings. Both runs were scored in the sixth when the Yankees had only one hit in a rally fueled by three walks and an error. Their other run came in the ninth off reliever Pedro Strop on successive doubles by Chris Stewart and Brett Gardner, who was left stranded at second base.

The Yankees are 15-12 when opposed by a left-handed starter but have lost six of their past seven such games. Their current losing streak to left-handed starters is their longest since dropping their final nine such games in September 2010. Despite the winning record against left-handed starters, the Yankees are definitely vulnerable in those games because their right-handed batters continue to struggle. For the season righty swingers are hitting .216 with 24 home runs in 1,178 at-bats.

And the 3-4-5 positions in the order, normally the most productive hitters on a team, have been a weakness. The Yanks’ hitters in those spots have combined to hit .213 with 38 homers in 911 at-bats.

The Yankees as a team have not homered in their past three games and in just three of their past 10 games. They have hit only two home runs over their past 10 road games since June 7. The Yankees are 9-24 this year when they don’t homer. Last year they were 7-24, which means they already have two more games in which they have not homered than all of last year, and they still have 82 games left on the schedule.

Sabathia goes from no-hitter to no-winner

Halfway through Friday night’s game at Camden Yards, it appeared that a couple of individual milestones for the Yankees would be reached – CC Sabathia’s 200th career victory as a pitcher and Joe Girardi’s 600th triumph as a manager. That neither was achieved was a bitter taste in a 4-3 loss to the Orioles that was particularly stinging.

Sabathia took a no-hitter into the sixth inning with a 3-0 lead. By inning’s end, both were gone. Nate McLouth, who got the first hit off Sabathia, also got the last, a solo home run one inning later that completed Baltimore’s comeback. Some tentative defense played roles in the Yankees losing the lead.

After McLouth led off the sixth with a line single to right-center, Alexi Casilla hit a ground ball between the mound and first base. David Adams, normally a third baseman or second baseman, played first base for the first time Friday night and mistakenly left the bag unoccupied in going for the ball, so that Sabathia, who fielded it, had nobody to throw the ball to.

CC recovered briefly to get Nick Markakis on an infield pop, but Manny Machado whacked his 37th double of the season to right-center to make the score 3-2. Machado then alertly tagged up and crossed to third base on J.J. Hardy’s flyout to center fielder Brett Gardner, who did not play the ball as if he thought Machado would try to advance. It was a key maneuver because Machado was able to score the tying run on another no-man’s-land, infield single by Adam Jones.

Sabathia came back for the seventh inning and got the first two outs before handing a breaking ball to McLouth, who hit a high fly over the right field scoreboard for his fifth home run. CC was so upset that he threw his glove against the dugout wall and whipped off his cap after the inning. He expressed the Yankees’ current situation as they dropped 5 ½ games behind the first-place Red Sox in the American League East and two games behind the second-place Orioles.

The Yankees had roughed up lefthander T.J. McFarland for three runs and seven hits in 2 2/3 innings of the rookie’s first major-league start. They had 10 at-bats (and three hits) with runners in scoring position over the first three innings but did not have another such at-bat the rest of the game as righthanders Kevin Gausman (1-3) and Tommy Hunter (two saves) combined to shut down the Yankees on four hits with no walks and seven strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings.

One night after being shut out on merely two hits by the Rangers, the Yankees collected 11 hits from eight different players but only one, a double by Gardner, was for extra bases. One player who failed to get a hit was Ichiro Suzuki (0-for-4) as his 21-game hitting streak at Camden Yards dating to April 5, 2008 came to an end.

Robinson Cano continued his career success at Camden Yards with three singles and an RBI. The second baseman improved his career numbers at Baltimore to .361 with 60 runs, 27 doubles, 12 home runs and 37 RBI in 70 games and 291 at-bats. In 43 games at Camden Yards since Aug. 22, 2008, Cano has batted .422 with 18 doubles, 11 home runs and 27 RBI in 43 games and 180 at-bats. He has hit safely in 31 of his past 35 games in Baltimore and in 38 of his last 43.

Michael Pineda is scheduled to make his next injury-rehabilitation start Sunday for Double A Trenton at Binghamton. In three minor-league starts, two with Class A Tampa and one with Trenton, the righthander has allowed three runs (one earned), nine hits and four walks with 11 strikeouts in 14 1/3 innings. Pineda also pitched in an inter-squad game against Yankees players June 21 and gave up no runs, three hits and one walk with five strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings.

Infielder Eduardo Nunez, who is on the 60-day disabled list because of a left oblique strain, began a rehab assignment with Tampa Thursday night. He was 0-for-2 and played four innings in the field at shortstop.

YU members may ask the skipper a question

Got a question for Joe Girardi? As an exclusive membership benefit, Yankees Universe members are being given the opportunity to ask the Yankees’ manager a question. Just hit the “Ask Joe a Question Now” link.

The Yankees will randomly select questions and conduct an interview with Girardi. The answers will be posted on the members-only section of yankees.com. Please submit your question by 5 p.m. Friday, July 5.

Yankees provide no support for Hughes

Finding the silver lining some days is virtually impossible. Thursday was one of those days for the Yankees. The 2-0 loss to the Rangers at least went by quickly – 2 hours, 24 minutes – well ahead of the severe thunderstorm activity that was forecast.

There was little thunder and lightning in the Yankees’ offense as they were limited to two hits, both singles, and two walks by Derek Holland, who entered the start with a career mark against the Yankees of 0-5 with an 8.85 ERA. The lefthander mixed a hard fastball with a tantalizing slider to win for the first time in five starts since May 31 with a complete-game shutout, the first of each for him this year.

“He got ahead of hitters with his fastball and was able to put them away a lot of times with his slider,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

Yet as dominant as Holland was, the Yankees were never really out of the game, and that was because of Phil Hughes, who did much to keep a hold on his spot in the rotation. Hughes clearly was the silver lining in this one. The only real mistake he made was a 1-1 changeup to Jurickson Profar, a left-handed hitting third baseman who crushed it to lead off the fifth inning with a home run to right field.

The other run off Hughes came in a strange third inning. David Murphy led off with a single. Murphy tried to steal second base on a pitch that Profar took for ball four. When Murphy came off the bag to brush off his uniform, shortstop Jayson Nix alertly tagged him. Murphy was called out. Other players should have taken notice of Nix’s move. Hey, you never know.

Engel Beltre, a rookie getting a start in center field, singled to right field, moving Profar to third base from where he scored on a sacrifice fly by Ian Kinsler. Beltre, no relation to Adrian Beltre, Texas’ regular third baseman who served as the designate hitter, was born in the Dominican Republic but grew up in the Bronx, so it was somehow fitting that he got his first major-league hit at Yankee Stadium. Before this series, Engel Beltre’s last appearance at the Stadium was in a PSAL Championship game for James Monroe High.

Hughes had been pushed back two days in the rotation and said it worked to his benefit. “It gave me a chance to step back and work on things I needed to do to move in the right direction,” he said. “I felt I had a better plan.”

The righthander threw 106 pitches over eight innings. In addition to the walk, he also hit a batter and struck out five. The bottom of the order hurt Hughes, not the top or middle. The 1-through-6 hitters for Texas were 2-for-20 (.100) off Hughes, whose overall record fell to 3-7, including 1-5 at the Stadium with a 5.86 ERA.

As good as Hughes was, the piddling offense was the game’s true story for the Yankees. They got a leadoff single in the first inning from Ichiro Suzuki and a two-out single from Austin Romine in the third. That and two leadoff walks was it. Holland retired 17 of the last 18 batters he faced. Vernon Wells, getting a rare recent start in right field, batted cleanup and struck out three times, all on sliders.

It was the seventh time this season that the Yankees have been shut out. The blanking came the day after the first game this year that the Yankees did not win when they scored at least five runs.

“We’re struggling right now,” Girardi said. “I think we will get better, but time will tell.”

Andy ties Whitey for K record in loss

Andy Pettitte couldn’t even come away with a consolation prize Wednesday night. A seventh strikeout in the Yankees’ 8-5 loss to the Rangers would have given Pettitte the club record. His strikeout of Adrian Beltre in the fifth inning was career No. 1,957 for Pettitte, who tied Whitey Ford for the most punchouts by a pitcher in franchise history.

Pettitte’s final inning was the sixth. After retiring A.J. Pierzynski, the leadoff hitter that inning, Pettitte got two strikes on the next four hitters but failed to get strike three each time. Lance Berkman grounded out to third. Mitch Moreland singled to center. David Murphy came back from 0-2 to draw a walk. Leonys Martin ended the inning with a popout to shortstop.

The Yankees tried to get Pettitte off the hook in the bottom of the sixth. Trailing, 4-1, the Yanks rallied to make the score 4-3 on RBI singles by Robinson Cano and Travis Hafner but could get no closer. Lyle Overbay, who had homered off Texas starter Justin Grimm for the Yankees’ first run in the second inning, struck out. After a walk to Zoilo Almonte loaded the bases, Jayson Nix grounded into a double play.

Pettitte’s third consecutive loss that dropped his record to 5-6 came down to one bad inning – the third when the Rangers scored four runs, one of which was unearned due to a throwing error by Nix on a sacrifice bunt by Elvis Andrus that filled the bases with none out. Petttitte caught Nelson Cruz looking at a third strike, but Beltre and Pierzynski followed with two-run doubles. Pettitte at least stranded Pierzynski at second by retiring Berkman on a groundout and Moreland on a called third strike.

After the Yankees closed the gap, Joba Chamberlain opened it again in the seventh by giving up a two-run homer to Cruz. Chamberlain needed to be bailed out by Preston Claiborne after being touched for another double by Beltre and a two-out single by Berkman. Claiborne got Moreland on an infield pop for the third out after replacing Chamberlain, whose ERA skied to 6.38.

Chamberlain’s stretch of ineffectiveness covers his past seven appearances in which he has given up nine earned runs in 6 2/3 innings (12.15 ERA).

“He is making mistakes in the middle of the plate,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “I still have confidence in him. His stuff is too good not to turn it around.”

The Yankees tried to turn it around for them in the seventh when a two-run home run by Ichiro Suzuki off Ross Wolf again made it a one-run game at 6-5. Yet once again, the Yankees let the Rangers stretch their lead with a two-run ninth. Both runs were not earned. An error by center fielder Brett Gardner, who dropped a drive by Pierzynski on the warning track in left-center, put runners on second and third with one out. A single by Berkman and sacrifice fly by Moreland added insurance runs for Rangers closer Joe Nathan, who notched his 26th save with a perfect bottom of the ninth.

The loss dropped the Yankees 3 ½ games behind the first-place Red Sox in the American League East and in a virtual tie for second place with the Orioles, who also lost.

Tex needs surgery, out for remainder of 2013

The worst case scenario that had been feared back in the spring when Mark Teixeira sustained a torn tendon sheath of his right wrist while preparing for the World Baseball Classic came to pass Wednesday with the news that the Yankees first baseman will require surgery and be sidelined for the remainder of the 2013 season.

After a recent MRI with dye contrast was performed on Teixeira’s right wrist, Yankees team physician Dr. Christopher Ahmad, along with Dr. Melvin Rosenwasser and two other New York-based hand specialists (Dr. Michelle Carlson from the Hospital for Special Surgery and Dr. Keith Raskin from New York University), confirmed that the sheath has not adequately healed and recommended surgery to repair the tear on the tendon sheath of his wrist.

“It’s very tough, especially in a season where the team could probably use me,” Teixeira said. “We’ve had some really, really good teams the last few years, and this year, we have a great team, and I would love to be a part of this team. I really would’ve loved to be part of hopefully what’s a playoff run, but when you realize that it’s not going to happen, it’s really difficult.”

Teixeira said he was told what he has is not a degenerative condition. After the surgery, which he said he would have sometime next week, Teixeira will require four to five months of rest and rehabilitation and “I should be 100 percent in six months,” he added.

The news is just the latest blow in an injury-plagued season in which the Yankees have had 13 players do 16 stints on the disabled list, many of them regulars, including Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Kevin Youkilis, Eduardo Nunez and Francisco Cervelli. Teixeira was able to play in only 15 games this season and batted .151 with three home runs and 12 RBI in 53 at-bats. He aggravated his condition on the West Coast trip but he could not pinpoint when. One week after receiving a cortisone injection, Teixeira reported no progress.

“I have had about a dozen cortisone shots in my career and always responded well,” he said. “Hindsight is 20/20, obviously, but we had a great plan. We had a plan that the team suggested that we rehab it. I agreed, I wanted to rehab it, didn’t want to have the surgery. My first week back with the team was far better than I ever expected, three home runs and driving the ball, but at some point on the West Coast, I re-injured it. I don’t know exactly when it happened, but I have no regrets because up until the point when I re-injured it everything was going pretty well.”

Lyle Overbay, who has done a good job at first base in Teixeira’s absence, will continue in the position. General manager Brian Cashman said he was satisfied with Overbay’s performance but would continue to seek ways to make up for the loss of Teixeira.

“My job has always been to find ways to improve the team, regardless of position,” Cashman said.

If there is any consolation for Teixeira, it is the knowledge that Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista had the same injury in 2012 and came back this year to hit 16 home runs and drive in 43 runs in 271 at-bats.

“I have been very blessed my entire career to be relatively healthy,” Teixeira said. “I averaged 150 games the first 10 years of my career and I’ll play 15 this year, so that’s completely out of the norm for me and it’s very tough. I’ve worked so hard my entire career to try not to be injured and to be healthy, and up until this year I’ve had a lot of success. But this is one of those years. You learn from it. Hopefully, the surgery is a complete success and 2014 is going to be a great year.”

Ichiro steals spotlight from Japanese pitchers

The all-Japanese pairing of the Yankees’ Hiroki Kuroda and the Rangers’ Yu Darvish turned into a standoff Tuesday night. The game was decided by another Japanese player in the bottom of the ninth inning as Ichiro Suzuki hit a walk-off home run for a 4-3 Yankees victory.

It was the second career walk-off homer for Suzuki, whose other was Sept. 18, 2009 with the Mariners off Mariano Rivera, who just happened to be the winning pitcher Tuesday night. Ichiro has three other walk-off hits. It was the Yankees’ first walk-off victory of the season.

For one game at least, the Bronx Bombers were back. Ichiro’s shot off a 1-2 fastball from Texas reliever Tanner Scheppers was the fourth solo homer of the game for the Yankees, who had not homered in the previous two games and four of the past five. In fact, they hit only four homers in their previous 15 games combined.

“That’s Yankees baseball,” catcher Chris Stewart said. “We haven’t seen much of it this year.”

Both starting pitchers left the game with the score 3-3.

Kuroda had a slight edge as he pitched two batters into the seventh inning, and one of the three runs he allowed was not earned due to a throwing error by third baseman David Adams. The other two runs were on solo homers by Rangers center fielder Leonys Martin. Kuroda walked one batter and struck out six.

Darvish lasted 5 1/3 innings. All three of his runs were on inning-leadoff home runs by Travis Hafner in the fourth, Brett Gardner in the fifth and Jayson Nix in the sixth. Darvish gave up seven hits overall with two walks and six strikeouts.

Gardner’s home run was his seventh of the season, which already matches his career high. He hit seven homers in 2011 in 510 at-bats. His seventh dinger this season came in his 289th at-bat.

Nix’s home run was his second of the season and ended a homerless stretch of 202 at-bats. It was also the first home run for the Yankees by a right-handed batter in 18 games covering 255 at-bats since June 4 when switch hitter Mark Teixeira connected from the right side off Indians lefthander Scott Kazmir.

Adams’ errant throw allowed Adrian Beltre to reach first base in the fourth inning (Beltre would later make two errors himself although neither resulted in a run). Singles by A.J. Pierzynski and Lance Berkman loaded the bases. Beltre scored as Mitch Moreland hit into a fielder’s choice.

Beltre’s first error put Zoilo Almonte on first base in the fourth. Almonte quickly got to second base by stealing it but he was stranded. Beltre failed to glove a smoking liner by Hafner with one out in the fifth, and Robinson Cano made it from first to third. Darvish averted danger by striking out Lyle Overbay and retiring Almonte on a force play.

After Stewart’s single in the sixth that ended Darvish’s night, the Yankees did not have a base runner until Stewart again walked on four pitches leading off the ninth. Gardner grounded into a force play and then made the second out attempting to steal second. That left matters up to Ichiro as he moved into center stage on a night that began with two of his countrymen on the mound.

ACC aligns with New Era Pinstripe Bowl

Would the late George Steinbrenner ever be excited about this? The New Era Pinstripe Bowl has grown in merely three years to the extent that it now has affiliations with two of the top college football conferences. The Yankees and the New Era Pinstripe Bowl announced Tuesday a multi-year partnership with the Atlantic Coast Conference.

The six-year affiliation between the two renowned brands includes the ACC’s commitment to play in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl from 2014-19. Beginning in 2014, the ACC will face off against the Big Ten Conference, which entered into a multi-year partnership with the Yankees and the New Era Pinstripe Bowl June 3, in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium.

“The addition of the ACC to the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, along with the Big Ten, will provide an annual matchup of some of college football’s top-tier programs,” Yankees managing partner Hal Steinbrenner said. “With outstanding institutions all along the East Coast as well as the Northeast, the ACC is an attractive participant and partner for the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. We look forward to hosting the ACC, its fans and alumni in New York City for years to come during the holiday season.”

“The partnership between the ACC and the New Era Pinstripe Bowl makes sense on so many levels and we are extremely pleased that one of the league’s football teams will be showcased in this game annually,” ACC commissioner John Swofford said. “With our 15-member conference stretching along the entire Atlantic Coast, this will be a great opportunity for our fans and alums to connect in the media capital of world and with one of the most storied and successful franchises in sports.”

Yankees president Randy Levine called it a “phenomenal partnership” and that George Steinbrenner would be very pleased.

“Except for the Yankees, football was the Boss’ greatest passion,” Levine said. “He always believed college football would be a major success in the new Yankee Stadium. What we have done in just three years has been to have a bowl game that is second to none except for the Bowl Championship Series.”

And Levine did not rule out the possibility down the line that the Stadium could be the site of a BCS semifinal game or even the BCS title game itself.

Established in 2010, the New Era Pinstripe Bowl has featured some of the most memorable moments of bowl seasons in just three short years, including the exciting finish in the inaugural 2010 game in which Kansas State missed a game-tying two-point conversion in the final minute, and the record-setting 213-yard rushing performance by Syracuse’s Prince-Tyson Gulley in last year’s game.

The 2012 New Era Pinstripe Bowl featured six 2013 National Football League draft picks, including each of the game’s starting quarterbacks – Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib (Giants) and West Virginia’s Geno Smith (Jets).

The 2012 New Era Pinstripe Bowl, a 38-14 Syracuse victory over West Virginia, recorded a 3.9 household coverage rating. For bowls played prior to New Year’s Day, only the Chick-fil-A Bowl (5.6) and the Alamo Bowl (4.8) recorded better overall ratings. After drawing a 2.5 total rating in 2011, the New Era Pinstripe Bowl’s 56-perecent ratings increase was second largest for all bowls on ESPN this past season through Jan. 1, 2013. Only the Armed Forces Bowl (+62%) bested the New Era Pinstripe Bowl for largest HH increase in 2012 vs. 2011.

Additionally, the New Era Pinstripe Bowl has seen increased attendance each of its first three years of existence, including a record 41,203 in 2012.

“The New Era Pinstripe Bowl in its short history has featured great match-ups and delivered exciting football to fans,” New Era chief executive officer Christopher H. Koch said. “The addition of the Atlantic Coast Conference takes this event to the next level.”

The 2013 New Era Pinstripe Bowl will take place Saturday, Dec. 28, and be nationally televised by ESPN, which has also secured national and local radio rights for ESPN Radio. Fans are encouraged to visit newerapinstripebowl.com, the official website of the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, for access to up-to-the-moment information regarding the game and to sign up to volunteer.

In the week prior to the New Era Pinstripe Bowl game, players, coaches and university staff take part in a variety of events, showcasing their respective universities to the New York metropolitan area. Special events, promotions and community outreach will take place throughout New York City during the week of the bowl game to create an unforgettable experience for fans, families, players and staffs of the two teams.

Prior to the inception of the New Era Pinstripe Bowl in 2010, the last college football bowl game had been played in the Bronx in 1962 when Nebraska edged Miami (Fla.), 36-34, in the Gotham Bowl at the original Yankee Stadium.

The Atlantic Coast Conference, now in its 60th year of competition, has long enjoyed the reputation as one of the strongest and most competitive intercollegiate conferences in the nation. Since the league’s inception in 1953, ACC schools have captured 127 national championships – 67 in women’s competition and 60 in men’s. In addition, NCAA individual titles have gone to ACC student-athletes 146 times in men’s competition and 102 times in women’s action.

Kuroda-Darvish 11th all-Japanese pairing

Tuesday night’s pairing of the Yankees’ Hiroki Kuroda and the Rangers’ Yu Darvish marked the 11th time that Japanese-born pitchers opposed each other in a major-league game. It is the fourth time each has gone up against a fellow Japanese pitcher and the second time they faced each other. Darvish won a 2-0 duel with Kuroda April 24, 2012.

Kuroda’s other such matchup for the Yankees was Oct. 3, 2012 in a 14-2 victory over the Red Sox and Daisuke Matsuzaka. He also won a 2-0 decision for the Dodgers July 22, 2010 against the Mets and Hisanori Takahashi.

Darvish’s other such matchups were April 15 this year in a 3-1 loss to the Mariners and Hisashi Iwakuma and Sept. 14, 2012 in a 9-3 victory over the Mariners and Iwakuma.

The Yankees were involved in the very first matchup of Japanese-born pitchers May 7, 1999, a 10-1 Yankees victory by Hideki Irabu over the Mariners and Mac Suzuki.

Nova working his way back to rotation

When is a losing pitcher a winner? In cases like Ivan Nova Sunday. Yes, the righthander took the losing decision in a 3-1 Yankees setback to the Rays and, yes, he was pretty much responsible. The runners who scored the deciding runs in the seventh inning both reached base when Nova hit them with pitches.

Oh, yes, that was a big ouch, more so for the Yankees than those two players, Desmond Jennings and Ben Zobrist. It put a dark shadow on an otherwise good day for Nova, who put himself back in the rotation mix although it is unclear to what degree.

“I don’t know,” manager Joe Girardi said when asked what the next step is for Nova.

It was a logical question. Nova started Sunday because of an opening in the rotation caused by Tuesday night’s rainout that forced Hiroki Kuroda and Phil Hughes to double-up Wednesday against the Dodgers. With Monday’s open date, the Yankees will go back in rotation against the Rangers. Hughes has been pushed back to Thursday night because Girardi wants to keep Kuroda and Andy Pettitte on their regular turns Tuesday and Wednesday nights, respectively.

Despite the two hit batters, the Yankees’ loss Sunday had less to do with him than an offense that continues to struggle. When you see Ichiro Suzuki attempting to sacrifice in the first inning with a runner already on second base, you know the manager figures runs are hard to come by. Ichiro actually popped the bunt up into an out, but Brett Gardner got to third base anyway on a wild pitch by Chris Archer and scored on a sacrifice fly by Robinson Cano.

But that was it for the rest of the afternoon as an Old-Timers’ Day crowd of 46,054 at Yankee Stadium came away disappointed after being entertained by a five-inning exhibition fracas of the franchise’s former starts over past decades.

Nova kept the Yankees in the game until the seventh. He gave up a run in the first but got a big double play to get out of the inning with no more damage. Nova allowed seven hits and two walks with seven strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings. The hit batters came after two were out with the score 1-1.

The normally reliable bullpen failed to come through. Righthander Shawn Kelley walked Evan Longoria loaded the bases before Girardi turned to lefthander Boone Logan against left-handed swinging first baseman James Loney, who singled in two runs.

It was Nova’s first appearance for the Yankees since a very good relief outing against the Mets May 29 and his first start since April 26 against the Blue Jays. This was his longest appearance since he went 7 1/3 innings Aug. 11 last year at Toronto.

“He kept his fastball down and had a good chance and curveball,” Girardi noted. “Except for the hit batters, I thought he threw the ball very well. The way he pitched today makes it real hard [to make a decision].”

Nova does not want to be optioned back to Triple A Scranton the way Adam Warren was after his 85-pitch effort a week ago at Anaheim. That still remains an option. As Girardi said, he did not know. To his credit, Nova understands the situation.

“I don’t want to be sent down,” he said, “but once in a while it helps.”