NEW YORK - Ivan Nova recorded a career-high 12 strikeouts, but one bat he didn't miss was Joey Votto's, and it cost him - and the Yankees - the game.
Votto hit his fifth homer in seven days, a three-run shot in the fifth inning, and the Reds held on to defeat the Yankees, 6-5, before 45,302 Saturday at Yankee Stadium. The interleague loss marked another frustrating day for the Yankees (21-19) at bat, and a puzzling day on the mound.
The Yankees, who have lost five of seven, scored twice and knocked out Reds closer Sean Marshall in the ninth, but Jose Arredondo got Derek Jeter to hit into a force out and Curtis Granderson to ground to first to strand the potential tying and winning runs in scoring position.
"We didn't get the last hit when we needed it," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "It was good that we came back, but it was frustrating."
The Red are 20-19 but Votto, their marquee player, has begun heating up. After hitting two homers in the Reds' first 32 games, he hit three homers, including a walk-off grand slam, last Sunday to beat the Nationals, and another against the Mets during the mid-week series at Citi Field. Now hitting .308 with seven homers and 28 RBI, Votto leads the NL with 24 extra-base hits.
"The first month was difficult," Votto said, "it was very frustrating, but I feel like I'm heading in the right direction now."
Mike Costanzo's sacrifice fly scored an unearned run in the eighth, and, with the Yankees' rally, proved to be the winning run. "I tell the guys, you never know which run you score is going to be the game-winner," Reds manager Dusty Baker said.
Nova (4-2, 5.69 ERA) recorded his first seven outs by strikeouts, including getting Votto swinging in the third, but he allowed seven hits and five runs in his six innings, throwing 103 pitches. "His curveball has a lot bigger break than the video gives it credit," Votto said, "and he throws hard."
The game tied at 2-2, Wilson Valdez led off the fifth with a single to center, and Chris Heisey, attempting to sacrifice, ended up with a bunt single when he beat Alex Rodriguez's throw to first. Rodriguez bobbled Drew Stubbs' grounder, costing the Yankees a chance at a double play, settling for a force at second. Then Votto hit Nova's 2-1 cutter into the seats in right, the ball landing in the first row beyond the scoreboard, to give the Reds a 5-2 lead.
"They made [their hits] count," Girardi said. "A couple of inches here or there makes the difference. [Nova] didn't have a lot of luck on his side today, balls we almost got to, we didn't."
The Reds scored in each of the first two innings, though Nova struck out the side in both. Brandon Phillips' soft single to right knocked in a run in the first, and after Devin Mesoraco's fly ball was poorly played by Raul Ibanez and fell for a double, Heisey doubled to left to make it 2-0 in the second. Then Nova retired seven in a row.
Russell Martin hit Homer Bailey's first pitch of the third inning into the right-field stands, his fourth homer of the year, to pull the Yankees within 2-1. Raul Ibanez's two-out double scored Robinson Cano from first to tie the game in the fourth.
The Yankees were 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position through the first eight innings.
"Everybody is trying to pick each other up," said Rodriguez, who went 0-for-4. "We just have to be patient and keep putting together good at-bats and not try to do too much."
Jayson Nix added a homer for the Yankees in the fifth and Costanzo's sacrifice fly gave the Reds the 6-3 lead in the eighth. In the ninth, Ibanez doubled again, then Nick Swisher and Nix hit RBI singles, and Andruw Jones singled, prompting Baker to take out Marshall, who has seven saves, and go to Arradondo, who got Jeter to chop to third. Jeter beat the relay to first to keep the game alive, but Granderson, after getting ahead 3-0 in the count, grounded softly to Votto on a full-count pitch to end the game.
"It wasn't fun the way it ended," Votto said. "I take that back - it was fun, the way it ended. But it was nerve-wracking."
Bailey (2-3, 4.34) lasted 6 1/3 innings, allowing seven hits and three runs to get the win.
Notes: Mark Teixiera, still suffering from bronchial inflammation, was given a second consecutive day off and will probably sit Sunday, too. "Mark didn't want it," manager Joe Girardi said, "but I told him, let's try rest and see if we can knock this thing out." Teixeira, hitting .228 with five homers and 20 RBI, has been coughing for weeks, and said the problem gets worse once he starts running and breathing heavily. ... Baker said he is still leaning toward keeping Aroldis Chapman, who was hitting 99 MPH consistently in the eighth inning, in the bullpen, but hinted he may try him soon as closer. ... Phillips' first-inning single produced his 500th RBI as a member of the Reds. ... Costanzo's single in the seventh was his first MLB hit, and it came with many friends and family members up from his home town, Philadelphia. "To do it here at Yankee Stadium with all the tradition, it's very exciting," he said.