Ivan Nova was so dominant that Ichiro Suzuki decided he was going to make the game interesting in the ninth inning.
Nova threw a three-hitter for his first career shutout and Robinson Cano supplied the offense as the New York Yankees edged Baltimore 2-0 Saturday for their second straight win over the Orioles.
The only scare for Nova came with one out and a runner on in the ninth, when baseball’s home run leader Chris Davis sent a soaring high fly to right field. Suzuki knew he had it — "absolutely," he said in English, laughing — so he gave a little deke as he drifted back onto the warning track to make it look as if the ball might be trouble.
"I was just having fun. I’m a professional so it was good to get things excited," Suzuki said through a translator. "If the fans thought `Oh, no,’ then you make the play — I think humans want to come from a bad place to a good place."
Did Suzuki think he made Nova worry?
"I kind of feel bad about that, but obviously, once again, he feels really good afterwards," Suzuki said to laughter. "There’s always ways of enjoying the game and showing the fans a good time."
Nova sure made it easy for the Yankees to have a good time.
New York’s most reliable starter for more than a month, Nova (8-4) outworked Scott Feldman in an efficient 104-pitch outing for his second complete game. His effort helped the Yankees move past their AL East rival by a half-game in the wild-card chase. New York entered the final day of August trailing Tampa Bay by 4 games. Baltimore trailed by four.
"Everything I kept seeing was positive, positive, positive," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
The Yankees were looking for another big offensive day after beating Baltimore 8-5 on Friday night. But Alex Rodriguez was scratched due to flu-like symptoms and Feldman (4-4) shut them down for seven innings after allowing a leadoff double to Brett Gardner and Cano’s RBI double in the first.
Cano later drilled a line drive to right field off Troy Patton leading off the eighth for his 25th home run.
The Orioles have lost five of seven, scoring only 11 runs in the losses. But manager Buck Showalter doesn’t think his team is slumping.
"When pitchers are on top of their game and hitters are on top of their game, the pitchers win," he said.
Acquired from the Chicago Cubs on July 2, Feldman had won his previous three starts, giving up just four runs. After Cano’s run-scoring double, Feldman did not allow a hit until Ly Overbay led off the fifth with a single.
The Yankees had runners on first and second in the fifth, sixth and seventh but Derek Jeter grounded into double plays to end the fifth and seventh, and Suzuki hit a flyball to center to end the sixth.
Feldman yielded six hits, struck out five and walked one.
"We kept battling and today he was just that good," Feldman said. "You just try to take the positives out of it and tip your cap to Nova. He pitched a great game."
After an injury and demotion to the minors, Nova has excelled. Using a big curveball to complement a fastball that reached 95 mph, he had Baltimore swinging and missing throughout New York’s eighth win in his last 10 starts (the Yankees were shut out in the two losses).
It meant a lot to him that Girardi left him in for the ninth.
"The confidence he has in me is unbelievable," Nova said.
Each of his strikeouts came on looping breaking balls that were either 82 or 83 mph, according to the scoreboard radar. When Davis fanned for the second time — to end the sixth inning — he flung his bat all the way to the dugout in frustration at the nasty pitch.
Matt Wieters snapped an 0-for-19 skid with a bloop single to right-center in the second for Baltimore’s first hit. Manny Machado singled in the sixth and Nate McLouth led off the ninth with a chopper to the mound that Nova leaped to knock down but couldn’t find the ball in time to make a good throw.
J.J. Hardy fought back from an 0-2 count to draw the Orioles’ only walk leading off the eighth. Nova then got Wilson Betemit to ground into a double play. Jeter made a sliding stop to his right to start it.
NOTES: To make room for newcomer Mike Morse, the Orioles placed Steve Pearce on the 15-day DL with a left wrist injury that has bothered him for several months. He hopes to be back as soon as he is eligible. … Starting with Baltimore’s Wei-Yin Chen (7-7), the Yankees are scheduled to face four straight left-handed starters. New York is 25-18 against lefties this season. Lefty Andy Pettitte (10-9) is set to start for the Yankees on Sunday. … Orioles 3B Machado made the team’s 40th error of the season. Baltimore is on pace for 48 errors. The fewest errors in a 162-game season by a team in MLB history is Seattle with 65 in 2003. … Cano’s 202nd homer tied him with Bill Dickey for 15th place on the team’s HR list.