The New York Yankees know they may have to win every remaining game for a chance at making the playoffs, and Ivan Nova's interleague history gives them hope in their next one.
The Yankees have won nine of 10 career starts by Nova against the NL heading into Saturday's home matchup with the San Francisco Giants.
New York (81-73) won 5-1 on Friday in the opener of this three-game set behind Alex Rodriguez's tiebreaking grand slam in the seventh inning. He set a major league record with the 24th of his career, breaking a tie with Lou Gehrig.
"It's an unbelievable accomplishment and it's a big one for us," manager Joe Girardi said. "I don't know if we can afford to lose any more games."
New York opened a six-game homestand after losing five of its last six on a 10-game trip.
"I kind of look at every game here on out as extremely, extremely important and we needed it," Girardi said. "And to be able to come home after a tough road trip that started out well and ended poorly, I thought it was important."
The homer snapped a 1-for-25 slide for Rodriguez and was his 14th slam for the Yankees, moving him ahead of Joe DiMaggio for second place on the franchise list behind Gehrig.
"I'm a huge fan of Lou Gehrig, everything he's done, going back to his college days in New York," Rodriguez said. "He's kind of the gold standard for a Yankee. Special moment. I'll think about it someday."
It would be special if New York somehow reached the playoffs, and Nova (8-5, 3.36 ERA) has hit a rough patch this month in going 0-1 with a 7.07 ERA in three starts.
The right-hander has never faced San Francisco (71-83), but he could be confident Saturday since he is 6-1 with a 2.67 ERA in 10 interleague starts - 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA in two this year.
If Marco Scutaro misses a fifth straight game with a pinkie injury, the only Giants hitter Nova will have faced prior to Saturday is Angel Pagan, who is 0 for 3.
Pagan will return to center field after manager Bruce Bochy opted Friday for Bronx native Juan Perez. The rookie doubled in the Giants' only run in the third inning.
Nova will likely have Chris Stewart as a batterymate after Girardi chose to rest the catcher Friday since the Yankees got home late from Toronto. Stewart will play for the first time against the team he played 67 games for in 2011 before he was traded to New York on April 4, 2012, for reliever George Kontos, who gave up Rodriguez's slam Friday.
"I can't thank the Giants enough for giving me that opportunity," Stewart told the Giants' official website. "They're the ones who kind of put me in the spotlight and allowed me to show what I could do."
Bochy said that Buster Posey will catch the remainder of this series. The star went 1 for 4 as the designated hitter Friday and has two hits in 25 at-bats.
Posey will be behind the plate for right-hander Ryan Vogelsong (3-5, 5.73), who has never started versus the Yankees and made two relief appearances against them in 2005 while with Pittsburgh.
The New York hitter who has faced Vogelsong the most is Alfonso Soriano, who is 5 for 15 with a homer. Soriano went 2 for 3 with a home run Friday.