MINNEAPOLIS -- When right-hander Ivan Nova has his slider working, he can be a dominant pitcher. Nova showed that Sunday in the Yankees' 3-0 victory over the Twins.
Nova was especially impressive early, holding the Twins without a hit until Joe Mauer's one-out single in the fourth. Before that single, Nova had a pair of strikeouts and allowed just one baserunner, on a Mark Teixeira fielding error, to lead off the third.
"I feel really confident in my slider," Nova said. "We worked on it, we got it back, and it's a pitch that, in situations, I can throw to left-handed hitters and get the out."
Nova remained in control the rest of his day, but had to get out of jams with runners on in each of the next two innings.
After giving up a leadoff single to Jim Thome in the fifth, Nova allowed what was ruled a double to Danny Valencia, though it should have been caught. Valencia's fly ball dropped between Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher in right-center field. Two strikeouts and a groundout later, Nova escaped with the shutout intact.
"That game was won for us, to me, in the fifth inning," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi. "He's got second and third, nobody out, and he gets out of the inning. That was the ballgame. When you look at that inning, you try to tell yourself, 'It's OK to give them one, let's try not to give them two.'
"He made it even better. He didn't give them any."
Nova admitted that in the past, he would 'Get out of control' in those types of situations, letting them get away from him.
On Sunday, he stayed focused and went after the Twins' hitters, while also getting all three outs on sliders.
"If you feel good, and you strike out the first two with it, why not throw it to the next hitter?" Nova said. "You know that he's going to be swinging."
In the sixth, Nova got two quick outs before giving up a single to Mauer and walking Jason Kubel, but he followed by striking out Thome to end the inning.
Nova went seven scoreless innings, giving up five hits and one walk with five strikeouts. He picked up his 13th win and his ninth victory in his last 10 starts. He is 9-0 with a 3.48 ERA over that stretch, allowing 25 earned runs in 64 2/3 innings of work.
"[Nova] threw the ball good. He's got good stuff," said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. "We like the kid, he faced us in New York. He's got a good fastball and a slider, good breaking ball. He used them all against us."
That stretch spans the last five starts before Nova was sent down to Triple-A in early July to make room for Phil Hughes, as well as the five starts since his return on July 30.
Since his return, Nova has gone 5-0 with a 3.55 ERA, allowing 13 earned runs over 26 innings.
"He didn't let it bother him," Girardi said. "He went down there and worked at something and got better. We've seen a better Ivan Nova."
The Yankees finally got on the board in the sixth, when Robinson Cano doubled to left, advanced to third on a Swisher flyout to left, and scored on Russell Martin's sacrifice fly to center.
Granderson added an insurance run in the seventh with his third career inside-the-park home run, off the wall in right field, his 35th homer of the year. Teixeira followed with his 34th home run of the season, marking the fifth time the Yankees have hit back-to-back home runs this season, and the second time in the series.
Granderson's inside-the-park homer was the first for the Yankees since Derek Jeter hit one on July 22, 2010, against the Royals, and the first for Granderson since Aug. 26, 2007, against the Yankees. It also was the second allowed this year by the Twins.
"The only time I realized it was when the third baseman wasn't covering third and I was already rounding second base. I saw Rob Thomson beginning the wave and could see our dugout yelling 'Keep going,'" Granderson said.
"At that point, I wasn't sure I was going to make it, because I could see the catcher getting himself ready to make a play. Luckily the throw was up the line, and that gave me the back side of the plate to slide in safely."
Twins starter Nick Blackburn lasted just 1 1/3 innings before leaving with a right lateral forearm strain. Blackburn gave up one hit, but walked four batters, including the last three he faced.
Reliever Anthony Swarzak came on to close out the inning, stranding the bases loaded, and the Minnesota bullpen kept the Yankees' bats quiet until Cano's double in the sixth.
David Robertson and Mariano Rivera combined to record the final six outs as Rivera picked up his 33rd save of the season, and the Yankees finished 5-2 on their seven-game road trip through Kansas City and Minnesota.
"It's a good road trip," Girardi said. "We won two series. Four-game series can be tough to win, and these guys were swinging the bats pretty good when they left Detroit. ... To end it 5-2, that's a pretty good road trip. It sure is a lot better than 4-3."
Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.