After breaking an eight-game losing streak, the Pittsburgh Pirates extended their win streak to two with a 4-1 victory Thursday night against the Cincinnati Reds with a huge performance from Pittsburgh starter Ivan Nova. This victory brings the Pirates back to .500 with an even 69-69 record.
For the second time as a Pirate, Nova (12-6) pitched a complete game, this time on 94 pitches — he could have pitched for “the Maddux,” a complete game with no runs allowed and under 100 pitches, but Nova allowed a sixth -nning RBI single from Zack Cozart.
Nova hasn’t lost since joining the Pirates at the trade deadline, posting a 5-0 record.
If there’s any nitpicking to be done, it’s not with his pitching — but with his hitting. Nova struck out twice in this game with the bases loaded, but the pitcher was a .118 hitter coming into this game and a career .097 hitter.
This season, Nova has fit the Pirates’ mold as a guy who can get quick outs and can induce ground balls.
Backing up Nova was some timely hitting from the Pirates. A three-run first inning was all Pittsburgh needed to secure the win. Cincinnati starter Dan Straily (11-8) has pitched the Pirates tough all season, which makes the team’s first inning scoring the key factor in the contest.
The first inning started well when Pirates third baseman Jung Ho Kang continued his hitting streak from the Cardinals series and doubled on an 0-2 pitch, scoring two runs when both Andrew McCutchen and Gregory Polanco crossed the plate. McCutchen reached base on a fielder’s choice, and Polanco singled prior to Kang’s hit.
Then, after David Freese, who played first base, singled — advancing Kang to third — Francisco Cervelli hit an RBI single to plate the Pirates’ third baseman.
The Pirates’ final run came in the sixth inning off Reds reliever Keyvius Sampson. Pittsburgh second baseman Josh Harrison recorded a one-out double, his 23rd double of the season, and Josh Bell, who made his first career start in right field, walked. McCutchen then followed with an RBI single.
This four-game series between the Pirates and the Reds continues with Game Two on Friday as Pittsburgh’s Steven Brault (0-2, 3.32 ERA) takes on Cincinatti’s Tim Adleman (2-3, 4.02 ERA).
The Pirates are skipping both Chad Kuhl and Jameson Taillon’s next turns in the pitching rotation. Deadline acquisition Drew Hutchison will start Saturday against the Reds, and Gerrit Cole is expected to start Monday against the Philadelphia Philles.
Kuhl departed his start Monday against the St. Louis Cardinals after two innings, and pitching in September is a new concept for Taillon, who is at a career-high innings total.
Image credit: Justing Berl/Icon Sportswire