Curtis Granderson helped him out by hitting a three-run homer off Garrett Richards before the rookie got his first major league out and New York snapped its three-game losing streak with a 9-3 win over the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday.
Nova (11-4) took over the big league lead in wins for rookies, allowing three runs and five hits in six innings. He made 10 appearances last season with New York, including seven late-season starts, before he was left off the postseason roster.
"I think he's made great strides since last year as a starter," New York manager Joe Girardi said. "I think he's become more consistent. He's developed another pitch."
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That new slider of Nova's has been a strength. One of the few times he threw it, however, he gave up Peter Bourjos' solo home run in the fifth.
No big deal. He got the last out of the inning and set down the top of the Angels' order before finally running out of steam in the seventh, when he let the first four batters reach. He tipped his cap to appreciative fans as he walked off the field.
Nova walked three without a strikeout one start after he fanned 10 without a walk. He hasn't lost in eight starts since June 3, against the Angels, and has won all three since he was recalled from Triple-A in late July.
"He has really good stuff," the Angels' Torii Hunter said. "The Yankees really have something special with him."
Granderson later added his 31st homer of the season on a long shot to the second deck in right field, beating his career high of 30 from 2009 in Detroit.
Robinson Cano tacked on a two-run shot in the seventh inning, getting within a single of hitting for the cycle. Eric Chavez hit an RBI double and Nick Swisher and Russell Martin had run-scoring singles for the Yankees.
The Yankees had lost six games in a row when the opposing starter was making his big league debut. The streak was in jeopardy pretty much from the start of the first inning.
Leadoff hitter Brett Gardner walked, as did Derek Jeter, before Granderson hit a long line drive to the gap in right that hit the padding atop the fence in front of the Yankees bullpen and bounced softly over it.
"His first three hitters weren't what you hoped," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "In between, there were some signs of his talent, settled down, and pitched some good baseball, but by then the damage was done."
Richards (0-1) allowed six runs and six hits in five innings. He also had two wild pitches, two strikeouts and two walks. He was called up from Double-A Arkansas by Los Angeles to take Jered Weaver's turn in the rotation while the Angels ace serves a six-game suspension.
"You know, I hadn't realized that," Girardi said. "You can obviously see why the Angels like him. Your major league debut at Yankee Stadium, it's a tough call."
Los Angeles made two sharp defensive plays behind Richards. In the second inning, shortstop Erick Aybar sprinted out into left field, leaned left and robbed Gardner.
Two innings later, Bourjos made the play of the game in center field, running down Eduardo Nunez's drive to the gap and catching it at his knees while right fielder Hunter dived in front of him. Bourjos turned and fired to second, where he nearly doubled off Chavez.
"I didn't see Torii, I was locked in on that ball," Bourjos said. "After I caught it, Torii looked up and said, 'That was almost ugly.' It was pretty cool to look up on the video screen and see the replay. I've never made a catch like that."
It wasn't enough against the Yankees, whose rookie pitcher didn't pitch like one at all, but more like the kind of seasoned veteran who makes fans and managers more comfortable in October.
Speaking of which -- Nova was asked if he'd been thinking pitching his way into the postseason rotation.
"Um, we are like a month and a half away," Nova said, dismissing the question. "I just got to keep my mind on what I want I have to do in five days."
Spoken like a true veteran.
- Vernon Wells hit an RBI single for the Angels, who lost for the fourth time in 13 games.
- Richards was 12-2 with 3.06 ERA at Arkansas. The 23-year-old was drafted by the Angels in the first round in 2009.
- Kevin Harvick, winner of the 2007 Daytona 500, threw out the first pitch.
- Angels RHP Joel Pineiro made his first relief appearance since Aug. 22, 2008, with St. Louis.
- The six starters the Yankees couldn't beat in their debuts: Josh Tomlin of Cleveland, Jake Arrieta and Koji Uehara of Baltimore, Daryl Thompson of Cincinnati, Anibal Sanchez of Florida and Gustavo Chacin of Toronto.
- Yankees RHP Bartolo Colon was set to face Angels rookie righty Tyler Chatwood in Thursday afternoon's game. The 38-year-old Colon (8-6) has been a revelation for the Yankees this season, with a 3.33 ERA and 100 strikeouts in 113 2/3 innings. Chatwood (6-8) has a 4.10 ERA and 66 strikeouts against 59 walks.