OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Yankees manager Joe Girardi is still undecided whether or not to send Ivan Nova back to the bullpen once the rest of the starting rotation gets healthy.
The way Nova has pitched as a starter, it's going to be a tough call either way.
Nova pitched six innings for his second win since moving into the starting rotation, Carlos Beltran hit a two-run homer and the New York Yankees held on to beat the Oakland Athletics 4-1 on Thursday night.
"It is very different than being in the bullpen," said Nova, who is unbeaten in three starts this season. "When you're starting, if you don't have it in the first inning you can have it in the second inning. This is my natural position and I feel good about it."
Nova (3-1) allowed one run and four hits in his longest outing this season since replacing the injured CC Sabathia in the Yankees' rotation. The right-hander threw just 62 pitches, had three strikeouts and lowered his ERA to 1.65 in three starts.
"He's pitching great," Girardi said. "We'll worry about that when the time comes but I really like what he's doing."
Aaron Hicks added an RBI double while Brett Gardner had two hits and two walks to help the Yankees win the opener of the four-game series.
Oakland swept New York when the teams played in the Bronx but got little going against Nova and three relievers.
"That's the best we've seen (Nova) pitch," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "That was a true hard sinker, and the curve was just enough to keep us off balance. He had a really good sinker today."
Josh Reddick homered for Oakland before leaving after fracturing the thumb on his left hand stealing second base in the seventh.
Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman pitched the final three innings to complete the six-hitter for New York. Chapman worked the ninth for his fifth save.
The Yankees missed multiple opportunities to break the game open but took a 2-1 lead on RBI doubles by Beltran in the third and Hicks in the sixth.
Both runs came off Oakland starter Kendall Graveman (1-6).
Beltran hit his ninth home run of the season and the 401st of his career in the ninth.
Reddick homered off Nova in the fourth but the A's managed just three runners after that and hit into two double plays.
Gravemen, who beat the Yankees on April 20 for his only win this season, suffered his fifth consecutive loss. The right-hander gave up eight hits in 5 2-3 innings with three walks and four strikeouts.
Beltran drove in the game's first run in the third but apparently forgot how many outs there were. With two outs, Brian McCann reached on an error when right fielder Reddick appeared to lose the ball in the lights but Beltran — who initially broke for third — retreated toward second when the ball was in the air. He went to third after Reddick's error but was stranded when Starlin Castro lined out to end the inning. "That one you don't necessarily need to say anything because you know," Girardi said. "It's obvious. Sometimes everyone doesn't know the mistake you make but that one everybody knows."
Yankees: DH Alex Rodriguez could miss the entire series in Oakland due to his sore hamstring. Rodriguez did some light running around the bases before the game but Girardi said it's questionable if he'll be activated by the weekend. "He went a little bit faster today on the arcs but it's still not where he needs to be yet," Girardi said. ... RHP Luis Severino (right triceps strain) is scheduled to throw Friday for the first time since going on the DL.
Athletics: Reddick got his thumb caught in the cleat of Castro while stealing second base. He will see a hand specialist on Friday but told reporters he could be out 4 to 6 weeks. . RHP Henderson Alvarez continues to await word on his troublesome right shoulder. He had an MRI earlier in the week but the results were inconclusive and sent to Dr. James Andrews for further evaluation.
Yankees: Sabathia (2-2) is scheduled to come off the DL to start Friday at the Coliseum.
Athletics: RHP Sonny Gray (3-3) pitches the second game of the series and is winless over his last four games. Gray has allowed three runs or more in each of his previous five starts.