Pirates Spoil Nova’s Terrific Night

Bucs get great start, come away empty

Josh Rowntree
August 16, 2018 - 11:18 pm

Pirates righty Ivan Nova’s up-and-down season continued Thursday night when he threw 6 2/3 innings of one-run baseball.

The only problem? The one run he allowed — a solo home run to Mt. Lebanon native Ian Happ — was enough to allow the Cubs to grab a 1-0 win over a Pirates team that continues to scuffle at the plate. 

“It’s a tough one, man,” Nova said postgame. “Every time you lose a game, it’s tough. But having a game like this, in the situation that we’re in, we need to win. We need to get W’s.”

Nova is right. The Pirates are now ten games behind Chicago in the NL Central and six games out of the second NL Wild Card spot. 

As most pitchers do, Nova took the high road. His team failed him on a night that he was hit hard early, but calmed down to throw 97 pitches, 66 for strikes. 

“I thought he pitched a really good game,” Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. “Outs are outs. When you’re elevating the ball, you’re going to get balls in the air and that was part of his plan tonight.”

The in-game adjustment by Nova was impressive, especially since he had to go away from some of his strengths, like his sinker, to handle a potent Chicago lineup. 

“I was doing my homework,” Nova said. “I’ve pitched against them a lot.”

“With this lineup, we’ve got to go anywhere,” Pirates catcher Elias Diaz said. “We’ve got to mix a lot. He was able to throw the ball up and he did. That’s why he was so uncomfortable (for Chicago).”

But Cubs starter Jon Lester out-dueled Nova, going six scoreless innings, striking out eight batters. 

The Pirates most threatening moment at the plate came in the fifth inning when, with a pair of outs, Lester put runners on the corners. Nova came to the plate, but struck out after jumping ahead 3-0 and fouling off a couple of pitches. 

“In that situation, you want to help yourself,” Nova said. “I’m not a really good hitter, but you at least have to try to do better than that.”

Hurdle admitted postgame that they discussed removing Nova in that situation, but with two outs instead of one, they rolled the dice by leaving the .023 hitter in the game.

See all of what Nova had to say in the video above.