NEW YORK -- During a Wednesday night filled with struggles for the Yankees amid their 9-4 loss to the Mets, Ivan Nova provided a highlight. The right-hander threw an immaculate inning in the top of the eighth, striking out the three hitters he faced on nine pitches.
Nova struck out Mets first baseman Ike Davis, left fielder Mike Baxter and shortstop Ruben Tejada swinging on three pitches each, recording the 50th immaculate inning in Major League history and the first for the Yankees since A.J. Burnett accomplished the feat on June 20, 2009.
"That was a good one; I was feeling really well, throwing a lot of strikes and I was aggressive," Nova said. "I went after hitters and I had good stuff today, so it's a good one."
It was a strong performance for Nova, who has been pitching out of the bullpen since returning from the disabled list on Friday. The righty threw five innings in mopup duty, allowing one run on five hits and a walk while striking out six.
"He threw the ball well tonight," manager Joe Girardi said. "I thought he threw the ball better, and that's encouraging."
Nova credited his success to getting ahead of hitters and maintaining his velocity. On more than a few of his 61 pitches, he hit the mid- to high 90s on the radar gun.
"When I get in trouble, I start throwing hard, so one thing I was thinking was, 'Throw hard from the beginning,'" Nova said. "I'm feeling really good, so I don't know why [I would] save it."
Nova was in the Yankees' rotation to begin the season, starting four games and posting a 1-1 record before being placed on the DL with right triceps inflammation on April 27.
He's pitched out of the bullpen twice since his return from the DL, allowing just one run on seven hits over six innings. Based on starter David Phelps' inability to escape the first inning on Wednesday, there's a chance Nova could rejoin the rotation in the future.
But Nova isn't thinking about his role on the Yankees' pitching staff. He simply wants to keep throwing the way he has been, particularly the way he did during his immaculate frame.
"I'm really, really excited the way I'm pitching," Nova said. "I'm proud of the way I pitched today. I'm really happy with myself. That's all I can say."
Josh Vitale is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less