NEW YORK -- In his young Major League career, Ivan Nova has made a habit of trusting his defense. He pitches to contact and lets his teammates do most of the work. That strategy -- and Nova's stuff -- betrayed the right-hander in the Yankees' 11-5 loss to the Royals on Thursday.
Nova didn't record an out in the fourth inning and took the loss in the the rubber game of a three-game set at Yankee Stadium.
The 24-year-old Nova surrendered eight runs -- four earned -- on 10 hits, two walks and two strikeouts. The outing could not have differed much more from his previous start, in Texas, where Nova recorded a career-high 22 outs -- and only one strikeout.
"I didn't think he had his good stuff," manager Joe Girardi said. "I didn't think he had a good curveball tonight. It just seemed to be rolling tonight. His fastball was up in the zone."
After working around a walk and a double in the first inning, Nova and the Yankees fell apart in the second, when 10 Royals came to the plate. By the time the half-inning ended 18 minutes later, six runs had scored, but only two of them were earned.
"That inning was the whole game," catcher Francisco Cervelli said.
Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer, a highly touted rookie, started the inning with his second homer in as many games. Wilson Betemit followed with a single, and Matt Treanor hit what could have been a double-play ball to Robinson Cano at second base. Instead, Cano's errant throw pulled shortstop Eduardo Nunez off the base. Betemit was safe, and Treanor reached on the fielder's choice. Things would get worse.
After a passed ball charged to Cervelli -- one of two by the catcher on Thursday -- Nova induced a groundout from Alcides Escobar. Mike Aviles then singled, and Melky Cabrera doubled. While Nova was in the process of walking Alex Gordon, Cervelli threw wildly to second base on a pickoff attempt. That error allowed Aviles to score and Cabrera to take third. Billy Butler hit another potential double-play ball, this time to Nova, but the pitcher bobbled the ball and then threw to first, even as Cabrera ran home to score the inning's fifth run. A Jeff Francoeur single plated run No. 6 before Hosmer ended the inning he had started with a lineout to right.
"It's just not good baseball," Girardi said. "You're not used to seeing Robbie throw the ball away. Then Cervi throws the ball away. We just gave them too many outs. You can't beat teams when you give them too many outs."
"The errors, they're part of the game," Nova said. "That's going to happen. You've just got to let it go away and try to get an out with the next batter. But that was kind of difficult for me."
The errors have been too big a part of Yankees games for Girardi's liking. The team has seven errors in its past 10 games, and many of them have been crucial. They also haven't been the only miscues.
"When we have one sloppy game, I don't like it," Girardi said. "So when you have three, four or five in two weeks, yeah, it does bother me. You give teams extra baserunners with errors and walks and you hit guys, it's just going to lead to trouble. Those games are extremely hard to win."
After allowing the first three batters of the fourth to reach -- including Cabrera, who hit a leadoff homer -- Nova gave way to Amaury Sanit, who pitched 4 2/3 innings in his Major League debut. Sanit had been called up to help a taxed bullpen that was without Rafael Soriano again for the series finale. But Soriano played catch on Thursday and will be available for Friday's series opener against the Red Sox "unless something happens overnight," Girardi said.
Against Kansas City's Sean O'Sullivan, the Yankees' bats remained quiet -- and hitless -- until the bottom of the fifth. Cano became the first Yankees batter to reach base when he led off the frame with his ninth home run of the year. O'Sullivan and the Royals did not record a strikeout. The last time the Yankees lost a home game in which they didn't strike out was June 17, 1994, against Milwaukee -- when the Brewers played in the American League.
"He changes speeds," center fielder Curtis Granderson said of O'Sullivan. "I saw a couple of pitches up to 95 mph, then a couple of pitches in the 89-90-91 range. When you have a good five- to six-mph change from all of your different types of fastballs, that makes you effective."
The Yankees followed with three more runs, but the early hole dug by Nova and the defense proved too deep. With the Red Sox looming, the Yankees hope they can put the shovels away.
"We always want to play them at our best," Cano said of the Red Sox. "Every game, but them more. They have such a great team. They take advantage of any mistake. So we've got to focus pitch by pitch and the whole game. You don't want to make a mistake against them."
Thomas Boorstein is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.