Ivan Nova: “I had to step up”

Last week in Anaheim, Ivan Nova stood in front of an Angel Stadium locker and slammed his performance against the Angels, saying that his outing – despite the Yankees’ 6-5 win – was unacceptable and that he had to pitch better.

This one qualified as an improvement. Nova limited the Rays to four hits over eight-plus innings, allowing just a ninth-inning run as New York posted a 4-1 victory. Nova was certainly in better spirits this time around.

“I had to step up. I had to do my job. I had to be better. Especially when everybody is pitching good, I don’t want to be the guy [left] behind. I want to be the guy pitching good, helping this team win games. That’s what we’re here for. I’m glad they’re pitching good and I’m glad I pitched good today. Hopefully I can continue it in the next start and the rest of the season.”

Nova said he had a few pep talks from teammates after a rough recent stretch that had seen him allow five earned runs or more in five of seven starts.

“After the game in Anaheim I had a nice conversation with Robby Cano. He was telling me I had to start pitching good. I had to be ready. I had to prepare myself more if I need it. Andy [Pettitte], even when he came out of the game yesterday, he told me, ‘Your turn tomorrow.’ He was waiting for me to pitch today, even though he pitched. He came out and the first thing he said was, ‘Your turn tomorrow.’ That motivates you when guys like that want you to do good.”

Pitching coach Larry Rothschild likes what he is seeing out of the Yankees’ starters, who seem to be pushing each other. New York’s starting five are 4-0 with a 1.64 ERA through the last turn of the rotation dating back to June 1, and healthy competition isn’t a bad thing to Rothschild.

“I think there’s something to that. I think it helps that one guy leads the way and the other guy wants to do better than him. It changes the thought process of a pitcher a little bit, and takes the emphasis off of some things that they probably shouldn’t be thinking about to put it in a more positive way.”

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