Wednesday afternoon featured a pitching matchup between Ivan Nova and Matt Cain, and the Pittsburgh Pirates (62-56) came away with a 6-5 victory over the San Francisco Giants (66-54) to ensure a series sweep.
Pittsburgh’s Nova (9-6, 4.83 ERA) pitched well, allowing four runs on six hits in four innings. The former Yankee who the Pirates acquired around the trade deadline threw 62 pitches — and 42 of those were strikes. On the other side, for the Giants, Cain (4-8, 5.81 ERA) looked good early (he got four runs from his offense to provide a nice cushion), but he struggled late. He needed just 52 pitches to throw four scoreless innings, but a six-run fifth inning proved to be the difference in this game. From the start of the inning it was clear Cain was struggling with his control; the right-hander would through 37 pitches before being removed from the game.
A strike away from a strong start, Cain instead hit David Freese with a pitch. John Jaso and Jordy Mercer then followed with walks, with the latter’s coming on four consecutive pitches. Eric Fryer then came up to plate and he, too, walked, scoring a run. The next batter was Matt Joyce, who came in to pinch-hit for Nova, and Joyce hit a 2-1 fastball into AT&T Park’s right field, scoring two runs.
Joyce now has 15 pinch-hit RBIs this season, which is one away from Willie Stargell’s record total from 1982.
Continuing the fifth inning, Josh Harrison then tied the game at four runs apiece with a sacrifice fly. Following a Starling Marte fly out, Andrew McCutchen stepped to the plate. It took one pitch, a fastball, for McCutchen to hit a home run, his 17th of the season, to give the Pirates a lead. That’s when Cain was pulled from the game.
The 2016 season has been one McCutchen would probably like to forget, but this series against San Francisco may turn out to be a critical one for him. He was 6-for-12 this series with a home run, a triple and four RBIs. He’s now batting .317 in August.
While it seemed like Pittsburgh had put the game away for good, up 6-4, things got interesting late. For a second consecutive game, Pirates closer Tony Watson had an adventurous ninth inning, but he managed to, once again, earn the save, his seventh of the season.
Watson started by walking Eduardo Nunez and allowing singles to Angel Pagan and Brandon Belt to load the bases. Buster Posey then grounded into a double play, which allowed Nunez to score and advanced Pagan to third base.
With the tying run 90 feet away from home plate, Brandon Crawford flew out to centerfield to end the game.
Pittsburgh reliever Juan Nicasio (9-6, 4.79 ERA) earned the win, pitching two scoreless innings.
The Pirates have Thursday off before beginning they’ll begin three-game series against the Miami Marlins. Pittsburgh’s Gerrit Cole (7-8, 3.17 ERA) will face Miami’s Jose Fernandez (12-6, 2.81 ERA).
Image credit: Eric Risberg/AP