Ivan Nova: We Need to Score

Pirates bats again silent in loss to Braves

Josh Rowntree
August 21, 2018 - 11:48 pm

© Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

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Every team goes through cold stretches at the plate. It’s the nature of a 162-game season. But Pirates hitters are colder than the frozen waters of the Allegheny River in February. 

The collective slump, which is a kind way of phrasing it, hit nine games Tuesday night in a 6-1 loss to Atlanta, a loss that again moves the meandering Bucs to under .500 on the season. 

Nine games. 15 runs. Seven losses. 

That sums it up. But what’s more frustrating for Pittsburgh is that the drought is coming at a time when the team is getting pitching good enough to lead them to the playoffs. 

“It’s tough when guys, every fifth day, are rolling and pitching their tails off and we can’t scratch out two or three runs for them,” Pirates first baseman Josh Bell said. “But this is baseball. It comes and goes. We’re definitely trying our hardest for them.”

Bell may be trying his hardest. Most players likely are, despite the results not coming. But effort has been called into question of late, particularly centerfielder Starling Marte, who was benched for Monday night’s game — until Clint Hurdle needed him to pinch hit — due to not running hard on a ground ball Sunday.

On Tuesday, down 5-0 in the ninth inning, Pittsburgh catcher Francisco Cervelli briskly walked to the backstop following a passed ball, thrown by reliever Clay Holmes, allowing Atlanta’s Tyler Flowers to jog his way in for another run.

“Yelling at people sometimes, that doesn’t make things better either,” Hurdle said when asked on if they’re thinking about larger changes. “You make your points, you talk about facts, you don’t worry about feelings. You talk about facts and you address them. 

“These are grown men in there, for the most part, that have all gone through challenges before. We’ve got a challenge right now that we’ve got to figure out.”

The challenge is simple: score some runs. The Pirates have been shut out three times in the last six games, with each game ending 1-0. Tuesday night, Ivan Nova went six innings, allowing just a two-run home run, and was lifted for a pinch-hitter after only 78 pitches. The Pirates were unable to score with him in the game and did not at all until a Gregory Polanco solo homer in the ninth.

“Your personnel is your personnel,” Hurdle added. “Can we adjust the lineup and look at some different things? We’ve talked about it. It’s been hard, these guys are battling. Guys are doing different things to try to change up some things.”

“We’ve had a couple opportunities where that one hit could change things around and we’re not getting it.” 

All of the pitchers — except Michael Feliz, who was shelled for three runs in his first appearance since July 26 — have been left out to dry in the last week.

“We need to score,” Nova said. “It’s been tough the last week. A lot of good pitching. The guys from the bullpen are doing tremendous jobs, not only the starting pitching. 

“But we have to be able to score runs. It’s tough, it’s tough.”

Hear all of what Clint Hurdle, Ivan Nova and Josh Bell had to say below.