To say Miami’s offense is snake bitten against Ivan Nova would be an understatement.
The righty has tossed 15 shutout innings against the fish, including six frames of one hit ball on Sunday afternoon, as Nova led Pittsburgh (28-35) to a 3-1 victory at PNC Park, splitting the four-game series with the Marlins.
Nova, who was pulled after the sixth inning in his last start in Baltimore (left knee), hurled 77 pitches, striking out four on the short but effective day of work.
“It was a run thing,” said Clint Hurdle of the reasoning behind cutting Nova’s day short. “Bases loaded, one out. We tried to blow it open. That part of it didn’t work.”
“I thought he pitched a very professional game. A very good mix,” continued Hurdle. “The sinker played for him today. He got some groundballs, and some early contact. The curveball played for him as well today, especially for the (second inning) when he punched out the side.”
With three straight outings of three earned runs or less given up, Nova talked about how he was feeling after the quality start Sunday.
“I’m feeling really good physically,” he said. “I’ve been feeling really good on the mound. Everything is in the right place. I continue to pitch a good game, and hopefully I can continue to do that.”
“I wanted to keep going,” Nova said about leaving early. “There was a situation with guys on base, and we wanted to extend the lead.”
Despite leaving nine on base, including the bases loaded sixth inning that yielded just one run, the Pirates’ offense gathered just enough to keep Miami at bay. Catcher Elias Diaz continued his hot streak since joining the club May 30, extending his batting average to .382 with a pair of hits on the day, including the game-winning two-run double off of former Pittsburgh starter Jeff Locke in the first inning.
“I can’t say if I’m going to do it consistency, but I’m going to try and do my best every day, every night when I get up at the plate,” Diaz said shortly after receiving his first post-game Gatorade bath.
“I think he’s got a hit every game he’s started. It’s been fun to watch. He’s having a blast. He swings the bat aggressively, so from that part of it, two more hits today. The big hit kind of loosens things up for Nova to get out there and get an early lead and go to work.”
Jose Osuna (2-for-4) and Andrew McCutchen (2-for-4) each joined Diaz in the multi-hit category, including a loud triple for Cutch in the fourth inning off of Locke, who ended up losing his second start of the year, giving up eight hits on three earned runs in 5.1 innings pitched.
“Locke, I never hit against him. He was my teammate for six years,” said Cutch. “It was really awkward facing him, but I had some good at-bats off of him. At the end of the day, we’re still good friends.”
The center fielder had his own awkward-yet-beautifully athletic move in the sixth inning when he hurdled the catcher J.T. Realmuto after a John Jaso ground out to first base. McCutchen was still tagged out after the acrobatic play.
“I don’t know,” said a laughing McCutchen. “I’m just lucky I didn’t get hurt.”
Rivero’s Closing Deal
The hottest reliver in baseball made his second straight save Sunday, tossing a four out closing of the Marlins, working on just 12 pitches. He has still yet to be hit in the closing role, and is boasting a 0.53 ERA, which is tops in the National League among qualified relievers, and third best in baseball.
The rookie catcher added to his monsterous start in the bigs, smacking two more hits Sunday, adding to a 13-for-29 tear in seven starts this season, with four doubles a home run and 10 RBIs. He went 5-for-9 in the series against Miami, including his career-high three-hit showing on Saturday night.
After the Moneyline
The Pirates came in a heavy -159 favorites, which marked just the third time in the last nine games they carried chalk. The price marked Pittsburgh’s highest since April 11 vs. Cincinnati, where they came in a season-high -180, losing the game 6-2.
When the over is nine runs or more at PNC Park this year, the record is 4-2-2, with an average of 12 runs being scored in those games. 14-5-2 overall. The total, which was nine Sunday, fell well under with four combined runs.
Ivan Nova-started games have gone 6-6 on the total for the Pirates. Nova games have gone under two consecutive starts, despite hitting the over three of the last five outings.
Jameson Taillon (2-1, 3.31) will make his triumphant from the disabled list tomorrow, as he and the Pirates will face Kyle Freeland (7-3, 3.34) and the Colorado Rockies to open a three-game weekday homestand. First pitch is set for 7:05.