Few may have expected the New York Yankees to be on the verge of getting swept in their opening series by a Houston Astros club coming off 111 losses in 2013.
Not many seem to know what to expect from inconsistent starter Ivan Nova, either.Nova takes the mound Wednesday night for visiting New York as it looks to prevent Houston from earning its first season-opening sweep in 13 years.Much like every season, the Yankees (2-0) entered 2014 with World Series aspirations and the hope that additions such as Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann and Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka could help offset the departure of All-Star Robinson Cano.They haven't gotten off to a good start, though, dropping Tuesday's opener 6-2 before falling 3-1 on Wednesday. Ellsbury and Alfonso Soriano have gone a combined 0 for 16.A loss in this contest would mark the second time in three years New York has been swept to open the season."We're going to be fine," Beltran said. "We haven't been able to put anything together, but this team has what it takes to play better and win ball games. We don't need to worry about it."Nova will look to help get the Yankees in the win column after going 9-6 with a 3.10 ERA in 20 starts and three relief appearances last season despite spending a month on the disabled list with right triceps inflammation. Whether or not Nova can build off that success remains to be seen.The right-hander went 16-4 with a 3.70 ERA in 2011, then slipped to 12-8 with a career-worst 5.02 ERA in 2012. The Yankees are hoping the up-and-down trend doesn't continue for Nova, who begins as New York's No. 3 starter.Nova has never faced the Astros, who will look to sweep their opening series for the first time since beating Milwaukee in three straight to begin the 2001 season.Dexter Fowler homered and tripled in Wednesday's victory after doubling twice in the opener. Matt Dominguez hit a solo shot in the seventh to add an insurance run."Obviously no one expected us to come in here and win a series from the Yankees, and no one really expected much from the Astros period," winning pitcher Jarred Cosart said. "If we keep playing together like this and keep finding ways to win games, who knows what can happen."Houston will send Brett Oberholtzer to the mound Thursday as he looks to build off a solid showing in spring training.Oberholtzer made three relief appearances while shuttling back and forth to the minors in the first part of 2013, then went 4-5 with a 2.24 ERA in 10 starts after being called up for good July 27.He pitched at least six innings eight times and gave up fewer than three earned runs in seven outings. The left-hander earned a rotation spot with his strong spring and pitched six scoreless innings Saturday against Kansas City in his final tuneup.Oberholtzer, though, isn't close to satisfied."I felt good and the results were good, but I still have work to do," he told the team's official website. "That comes every day with work, coming to the ballpark and being a pro."Oberholtzer made his final start of last season against the Yankees on Sept. 27, giving up three runs -- two earned -- in 5 1/3 innings of a 3-2 loss.
Jose Altuve had the second-highest batting average in the AL against curveballs from righties last year (.382). Ivan Nova led the AL in percentage of curveballs thrown among pitchers with at least 20 starts.