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NYY@TEX: Nova hurls 7 1/3 frames of one-run ball

ARLINGTON -- The Yankees have trumpeted Ivan Nova as having a chance to develop into something special, and he continues to give them reasons to bank on his future.

Nova pitched well for the third straight start, logging a career-high 7 1/3 innings and permitting only two hits as the Yankees defeated the Rangers, 4-1, on Friday at Rangers Ballpark.

"We were working hard," Nova said. "The last two times when I got into the seventh inning it was special, so what can I say about this one? It was tremendous."

Curtis Granderson homered twice -- one off a lefty, one off a righty -- and drove in three runs to power the Yankees, who snapped a season-high three-game losing streak.

"We needed that -- we needed a lift after the way we played in Detroit," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

Rafael Soriano recorded the last two outs of the eighth inning, and Mariano Rivera hurled a perfect ninth inning for his 12th save.

But the story was Nova, who continues to solidify his place in New York's rotation.

Just two weeks ago, there were whispers that the 24-year-old rookie might need more seasoning at the Minor League level, but Nova swears he ignored that buzz and kept his confidence high.

It wasn't hard for him to smile after this one. Nova didn't even record his first -- and only -- strikeout until the seventh inning, his heavy fastball inducing the Rangers to slap a succession of ground balls to New York's sure-handed infield.

"I know I'm not a big strikeout pitcher," Nova said. "If I start getting my ground balls, I don't have to be thinking about striking everybody out. I located my pitches and made quick outs."

As Nova piled up the routine putouts, the Rangers' frustration mounted.

"He made some good pitches for sure," said Elvis Andrus, who went hitless in four at-bats. "We were getting unlucky today. We were hitting a lot of balls right on it. The way we are right now ... it's like we're playing against 22 people."

Last season, Nova was a callup being asked to take the ball in meaningful August and September games, and the fifth inning became something of a glass ceiling for him. Those limitations seem to have been shattered.

"He's got good pace out there," catcher Russell Martin said. "When he finds his rhythm, he's able to execute pitches, pitch after pitch.

 "I think when he keeps his focus like he has been, he's really good. Hopefully we can just keep going in that direction and keep having fun."

With a second-inning, two-run shot off Rangers starter Matt Harrison and a seventh-inning blast off Ryan Tucker, Granderson vaulted into the American League lead with 10 home runs.

It was here in Texas that Granderson's season turned around last August, when he submitted his swing to hitting coach Kevin Long for some much-needed tweaking. He started hitting soon after and hasn't stopped.

"It's a matter of looking to drive a pitch, and sometimes the ball is going to get out of the ballpark," Granderson said. "There's no key. I don't consider myself a power hitter by any means.

 "When you measure me up against guys like Alex Rodriguez or Ryan Howard, those guys are 40, 50, 60 pounds heavier than me. I'm not sure what it is."

It was Granderson's eighth career multihomer game, and he now has four homers in 29 at-bats off lefties this year after hitting just four in 158 at-bats against southpaws in 2010.

 "I expected him to be productive and hit the ball really hard, but 10 home runs is a lot of home runs," Girardi said. "The adjustments he has made have really helped."

While the Yankees got Harrison for three runs (two earned) in six innings, it looked like his night might end a lot quicker, as the Yankees had Harrison on the ropes in the second inning.

Struggling with his control, Harrison walked a pair of batters and got Derek Jeter to slap a one-out bouncer back to the mound. But Harrison air-mailed a routine throw down the right-field line, allowing Martin to score.

A four-pitch walk to Granderson loaded the bases, and with activity stirring in Texas' bullpen, Harrison settled down to get Mark Teixeira to foul out on a full-count pitch and induce Alex Rodriguez -- swinging 3-0 -- to fly to center.

Harrison only allowed one hit the rest of the way, finishing his effort scattering four hits in all while walking five and striking out three.

But the way Nova was cruising, whatever support the Yankees had mustered would be enough.

"We're not swinging the bats great, but we found a way to win tonight," Girardi said. "We need to continue that. The good thing is we're getting good pitching, and that's going to sustain you."

Nova retired 15 of the first 16 Rangers to face him, the only blemish a second-inning single to David Murphy. Julio Borbon drove in Texas' only run with an eighth-inning single.

Nova said the key was throwing early strikes and keeping his infielders busy, and it's a recipe for success that the Yankees would be thrilled to see him continue.

"I wish I could strike everybody out, but I'm not a strikeout pitcher," Nova said. "Every time I can keep my ball down, I'm going to get ground balls and quick outs. That's all I was thinking." Comments