NEW YORK – All those strikeouts did nothing to soothe Ivan Nova and the New York Yankees.
The right-hander racked up a career-high 12 Ks on Saturday against the Cincinnati Reds but gave up a three-run homer to Joey Votto and took the loss in New York's 6-5 defeat.
Trailing by three going into the ninth inning, the Yankees scored twice off Sean Marshall before Jose Arredondo closed it out for his first major league save.
"We just didn't get the last hit that we needed," manager Joe Girardi said. "It's good that we're able to come back, but it's frustrating that you get so close and lose."
Nova had no problem with the bruised and sprained right foot that knocked him out of Monday night's start at Baltimore in the sixth inning. Flashing a sharp curve, he struck out eight in the first three innings and had 11 strikeouts after five, surpassing his previous career high of 10 set on Aug. 4, 2011, against the Chicago White Sox.
"I don't care about strikeouts," Nova said. "I don't like the way I'm pitching right now. I'm making a lot of mistakes."
He allowed seven hits and two walks over six innings in his second loss since a 15-game winning streak.
Still, the Yankees appeared poised to complete a late comeback when Reds manager Dusty Baker pulled Marshall, his regular closer, in favor of Arredondo.
The right-hander entered with two on and one out, and Derek Jeter grounded his first pitch to third. Cincinnati nearly turned a game-ending double play, but Jeter just beat the relay.
Curtis Granderson then fouled off a 3-0 pitch before topping a slow roller to Votto for the final out.
"I could have done without the drama, but we did win the game," Baker said.
Brandon Phillips got Cincinnati started with a run-scoring single and the Reds improved to 2-2 during their five-game visit to both New York ballparks this week.
Homer Bailey (2-3) pitched effectively into the seventh inning for the second consecutive outing. Cincinnati then turned it over to its normally lights-out bullpen and held on to hand New York its fourth loss in five games.
Logan Ondrusek retired Jeter on a shallow fly with two on to end the seventh. Cuban flame-thrower Aroldis Chapman, hitting 99 mph on the stadium scoreboard, whiffed Granderson and Robinson Cano in a perfect eighth.
"You don't see lefties that throw 100 mph very often," Alex Rodriguez said. "He gave me a good pitch to hit but I swung at it and hit it straight up. Pretty electric."
Raul Ibanez doubled to start the ninth and scored on Nick Swisher's single, snapping New York's 0-for-22 skid with runners in scoring position. Marshall threw a called third strike past Russell Martin, but Andruw Jones singled to put runners at the corners and Jayson Nix singled to make it 6-5.
That's when Baker went to Arredondo.
"I didn't really like the matchup there at the end with all those righties coming up there against Marshall," said Baker, who hinted that he might consider moving Chapman into the closer role soon.
Martin and Nix homered for the Yankees on a beautiful, 74-degree day when three balls barely cleared the short porch in right field.
Bailey, drafted seventh overall in 2004, struck out seven and walked one in his first outing at Yankee Stadium.
"I'd be lying if I said the anticipation wasn't there," he said. "The first couple pitches it looked like the plate was about 100 feet away."
With the score tied 2-all, No. 9 batter Wilson Valdez singled leading off the Cincinnati fifth and Chris Heisey followed with a bunt single. One out later, Votto got just enough of an inner-half slider from Nova (4-2) to drive it over the auxiliary scoreboard in right-center.
"He didn't have a lot of luck on his side today," Girardi said.
Nix homered in the bottom half to cut it to 5-3. An eighth-inning throwing error by Yankees reliever David Phelps led to Mike Costanzo's sacrifice fly.
Nova got himself in trouble with consecutive walks in the first and Phillips put the Reds ahead with an RBI single. Devin Mesoraco and Heisey both doubled in the second to make it 2-0.
Martin homered on the first pitch of the third and New York tied it on Ibanez's two-out RBI double in the fourth.
NOTES: The series finale Sunday features an excellent pitching matchup. Reds RHP Johnny Cueto (4-1, 1.89 ERA) faces Yankees ace CC Sabathia (5-1, 3.77). Cueto's 2.20 ERA over the past two seasons is the best in the majors. ... Yankees 1B Mark Teixeira was held out of the lineup for the second consecutive game and might get Sunday off, too. The team is hoping consecutive days of rest will help him shake the nasty cough that's been bothering him all season. ... New York has five hits in its last 55 at-bats (.091) with runners in scoring position.