Derek Jeter and the rest of the Yankees hitters made it easy for Ivan Nova to prolong his impressive winning streak.
Jeter hit a three-run homer to extend his fast start and Nova won his 14th straight decision, leading New York to an 11-5 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday night.
Raul Ibanez added a titanic homer and Jeter also doubled during a four-run rally to help the Yankees take two of three in an early series between high-priced teams expected to challenge for the American League pennant.
”I think everybody in here already knows what we can do,” Nick Swisher said. ”I think tonight was just an explosion for us at the plate. It was great.”
The prime-time crowd for a nationally televised game included Tim Tebow and Dwyane Wade, who sat side by side wearing Yankees caps in the third row next to the Los Angeles dugout. The new backup quarterback for the New York Jets, Tebow was mostly booed when he was shown on the giant video board – but he cracked a smile anyway.
New York spoiled the season debut of Jerome Williams (0-1), chased in the third inning, while sending Albert Pujols and the Angels to their sixth defeat in eight games. The $240 million slugger went 1 for 5 with an RBI single in the seventh that cut it to 8-5, but David Robertson retired Mark Trumbo on a bases-loaded fly to end the inning.
”No one’s ever happy when you start off slowly. No one’s saying no big deal,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. ”But you also have to understand the need for some guys to get into their game. Some guys are going hit stride right out of spring training, hit the ground running. Some guys are going to need some innings or some at-bats.”
Pujols is still looking for his first home run with his new team. He’s gone nine games without one, his longest drought to start a season.
Howie Kendrick had his second consecutive three-hit game for the Angels and nearly hit for the cycle. Needing a home run to do it – the longtime Yankees nemesis hit one Saturday – he almost got it with a drive that barely sliced foul in the eighth. On the next pitch, Kendrick grounded out.
Fighting a cold and fever, Nova (2-0) struck out eight over six innings. Often the beneficiary of big run support, the 25-year-old right-hander hasn’t lost in the regular season since the Angels beat him 3-2 on June 3.
”The guy has great stuff,” Kendrick said. ”He’s got an electric fastball, he throws his breaking balls for strikes and he knows how to pitch.”
Nova’s winning streak ties Hall of Famer Whitey Ford and Steve Sundra (1938-39) for the second-longest by a Yankees pitcher since 1920. Roger Clemens won 16 straight in 2001.
Nova was actually demoted to the minors during his winning streak – where he lost twice for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last July. He finished 16-4 with a 3.70 ERA as a rookie last season.
”I’m not worried about a winning streak,” he said. ”I just want to take the ball every five days,” Nova said. ”I don’t pay attention to that stuff.”
Jeter made it 8-1 when he connected off Hisanori Takahashi in the fourth, sending a drive to the short porch in right for his second homer of the season. The 37-year-old captain is 15 for 41 (.366) with six extra-base hits.
”He looks really good,” teammate Robinson Cano said. ”I’m happy for that guy because people always criticize, his age and stuff like that, so I’m happy to see him have a good start.”
New York has won five of six after opening 0-3.
Tebow and Wade were gone by the seventh, when Swisher hit an RBI single and Ibanez greeted Jason Isringhausen with a two-run drive into the suite level between the second and third decks at new Yankee Stadium.
Hunter, standing in right field after the ball soared over him, was caught on camera mouthing, ”Wow.”
”That’s one of the farthest ones I’ve seen,” Jeter said.
Ibanez’s second homer with New York made it 11-5, and the designated hitter finished with three RBIs. Cano, named for Jackie Robinson, scored three runs and reached safely four times 65 years to the day after the Brooklyn Dodgers star broke baseball’s color barrier.
”It’s a special day. We enjoy this day,” Jeter said.
Chris Iannetta homered for the second consecutive day, a two-run shot, and Trumbo also went deep for the Angels. Maicer Izturis had an RBI double in the sixth but third baseman Alex Rodriguez made a diving play to get Nova out of the inning with an 8-4 lead.
NOTES: Angels pitchers Jered Weaver and Dan Haren both flew back to California before the game to get some extra rest for their upcoming starts. Weaver goes Monday night at home against Oakland, followed by Haren on Tuesday. … Yankees LHP Andy Pettitte tossed four scoreless innings of two-hit ball in his second start with Class-A Tampa. … Freddy Garcia starts Monday night against ex-Yankee Carl Pavano when New York opens a four-game series with Minnesota.