Nova good as new in return from TJ surgery

A homestand that began so promisingly and then seemed to fall apart ended on a very high note Wednesday for the Yankees as Ivan Nova made a triumphant return from Tommy John surgery to repair his right elbow 14 months ago.

The Phillies, owners of the worst record in baseball, threatened to complete a embarrassing sweep of the Yankees behind veteran Cole Hamels, who seems to be auditioning for a variety of clubs in need of a quality starter. Nova followed disappointing starts by CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda and Masahiro Tanaka with 6 2/3 innings of shutout ball against a team that had scored 22 runs over the previous two games.

Yankees pitchers were banged around for 34 runs and 44 hits in three straight losses. Nova’s outing was just what they needed, not that they could have expected it from him. Pitchers coming back from Tommy John surgery do not often have so impressive a first outing as did Nova in a 10-2 victory over the Phillies.

The Yankees gave their teammate some working room by jumping out to a 5-0 lead off Hamels by the fourth inning, a continuation of their offensive combustibility throughout the homestand in which they scored 60 runs in eight games, an average of 7.5 runs per game. On the 5-3 homestand, the Yanks batted .351 with 19 home runs to offset a staff ERA of 5.50.

As for Nova, his ERA is 0.00. In his first start since April 19, 2014, the righthander allowed three hits and two walks. He had only one strikeout but kept the Phillies off base with routine outs. Center fielder Brett Gardner had nine putouts behind Nova.

Gardner also continued his ferocious hitting with an RBI single, a walk and two runs. On the homestand, he had 17-for-36 (.472) with three doubles, one triple, four home runs and 10 RBI. Gardy scored 12 runs and raised his batting average 30 points to .292.

Everybody on the Yankees hit Wednesday except for Carlos Beltran (0-for-5; there is always one player who doesn’t get to the dance floor). After missing two games because of a stiff neck, Mark Teixeira banged out three singles and knocked in two runs.

Chase Headley, Alex Rodriguez, Chris Young, Didi Gregorius and Jose Pirela had two hits apiece. Hamels was gone after five innings in which he allowed five runs, eight hits and three walks, and the Yankees piled it on against two Phillies relievers.

Finally, the Yankees were able to put a net over infielder Maikel Franco, who was 0-for-4 after having gone 6-for-8 (.750) with 10 RBI and five runs over the two prior games.

The Yankees are 12-4 in their past 16 home games since May 25 and have outscored opponents, 115-67, during that time. Nova’s stint was the longest stretch of scoreless innings by a Yankees pitcher in his season debut since Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez pitched eight innings of one-hit ball April 26, 2002 against Tampa Bay.

The victory coupled with the Rays’ loss to the Blue Jays inched the Yankees to one game of first-place Tampa Bay in the American League East.

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