(SportsNetwork.com) - Ivan Nova will try to follow up a strong finish to last season on Thursday. as the New York Yankees try to avoid a three-game sweep at the hands of the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park.
"Every game is important for us," Nova said. "You don't want to start the season losing games. We already lost two, but it's not the end. It's normal tomorrow; just trying to act confident, go out there and throw strikes to hitters."
Nova struggled at the outset of 2013 and was even demoted to Triple-A Scranton for a stretch. The right-hander returned in late June, though, and was one of the Yankees' best starters from there on out.
In fact, his 0.56 homers/nine innings ratio in 2013 was the second-lowest among AL starters.
The 27-year-old hurler also enjoyed a perfect month of August that saw him go 4-0 with a 2.08 ERA. In all, he ended the year 9-6 with a 3.10 ERA in 23 games (20 starts).
Nova's .673 career winning percentage as a starter is the third-highest for any big league pitcher with at least 50 starts, trailing only Kris Medlen and Lance Lynn
He seemed to carry that strong finish into the Grapefruit League and was 2-1 with a 3.66 ERA in five spring starts.
"The way I threw the ball, it was awesome," Nova said. "I handled the spring without any pressure, not thinking too much about what's going to be next. I just went out each and every day, one day at a time."
Houston, meanwhile, will counter with impressive lefty Brett Oberholtzer, who got his first taste of big league action in 2013. Oberholtzer was 4-5 with a 2.24 ERA in 10 starts and only allowed 1.82 walks per nine innings.
"I'm going to have to try to make quality pitches to stay in the game and not get too ahead of myself," Oberholtzer said.
Houston may have lost 111 games in 2013, but is 2-0 to start this season after another win over the Yankees on Wednesday. Dexter Fowler smacked a leadoff homer, tripled and scored twice in the Astros' 3-1 win.
"It's always awesome when you're 2-0," Fowler said. "Coming off the season last year, that's the past. The guys in here know we can win. That's a good team over there and a good team we beat."
Matt Dominguez also hit a solo homer for Houston, which won Monday's opener 6-2. Jarred Cosart (1-0) allowed four hits over five scoreless frames to pick up the win.
"If we keep playing together like this and keep finding ways to win games, who knows what can happen," Cosart said.
Hiroki Kuroda (0-1) yielded two runs on three hits and a walk over six innings for New York. Brian Roberts went 3-for-4 in defeat for the Yankees, who are 0-2 for the third straight season.
"We haven't been able to put anything together, but this team has what it takes to play better and win ball games," Beltran said.
The Yankees swept the Astros to close last season and were 5-1 against them a year ago.