Thursday, September 8, 2016

Nova Goes The Distance, Kang Clutch In 4-1 Victory Over Reds

Ivan Nova breezed through a 1-2-3 opening frame. J-Hay, who's been red hot, opened with a two-bagger against Dan Straily. An out later, Josh did his thing, getting caught in a rundown on Cutch's ball to short; he couldn't drag it out long enough to advance Andrew, and that hurt when Gregory singled. The pain didn't linger. JHK drilled an 0-2 heater into left center for a double and chased both Bucco runners home. The Pirates then played small ball. Freeser legged out an infield knock and Fran threaded a seeing-eye single through the middle to plate another. Jordy was walked to load 'em. Good plan; Nova can toss but is about as disinterested a batter as the pre-2016 Frankie and whiffed. Still, 3-0 is a nice start.

Ivan tamed the Reds on six hits (photo Pittsburgh Pirates)

Three grounders, three outs for Cincy in the second, and the Bucs went quietly, too. Nova continued to deal in the third. Kang got his reward for his last hit when he got drilled with one gone; the names may change bu the Reds are the Reds. With two away, Fran doubled JHK to third with the Pirates losing a run when the ball hopped the fence. Jordy was walked again and Nova fanned to leave 'em juiced again. He'll have to work on that swing thing if he stays in the NL. Nova ran his streak to a dozen Redlegs up & down in the fourth spinning a very economical 39 pitches. J-Hay was plunked and Josh Bell followed with a knock. An out later, Gregory's liner was snagged by Joey Votto; he flipped to second to double up Harrison, who napped and was forced easily. Lotta ducks left on the pond so far.

In the fifth, Ivan muffed a squibbler, missing the mark on his throw to first. It didn't bother him much as the next pitch was banged to Jordy to start a twin killing. Scott Schebler followed with a single, but a K ended the music. Fran walked with two outs and was left aboard. The sixth started with a bunt single and knock by the Reds, but Ivan had another 6-4-3 DP his sleeve. Cincy got on the board when Zach Cozart beat out a grounder that J-Hay somehow kept from reaching grass but ended up an eyelash short on the throw. Keyvius Sampson took the ball. After the mandatory Nova K, J-Hay barely missed going long and settled for a two-sacker. Bell fell behind 0-2, but worked a walk, with S-Rod replacing him. Cutch's single plated Harrison, who beat a slightly offline throw. A bouncer moved the runners 90', but there they stayed.

JHK's 0-2, two-out, two-run double got the Bucs off & running (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)

The Reds made solid contact a couple of times in the seventh without success; tonight the Pirates defense has been money. Jumbo Diaz came on and was welcomed with a Freeser double, and stop the presses, Ivan singled him to third with two outs. That little spice was nice, but the Pirates stranded a couple of more guys to run the tote board to 12. A leadoff double and fly (Gregory didn't do much of a job of setting up the throw; he's still looks a bit lost in LF) moved Eugenio Suarez to third with an out in the eighth. No sweat; a couple of balls rolled to Jordy left him there, with the final out being a on a sick short hop grab. Ross Ohlendorf climbed the hill and walked Cutch with an out, but no mayhem ensued.

Ivan came out looking for his second complete game as a Bucco. After two outs, a single brought up Brandon Phillips, who looks to be Nova's last batter no matter what. It ends up he was the last batter, period, after his bouncer to JHK was converted into the third out. So Ivan provided the fireworks during the game and the fans get to see a second round from the Zambelli Brothers. Sweet night, no?

Fran continued to swing it with two hits and a walk (photo Pittsburgh Pirates)

Ivan has been a Super Nova for the Bucs, and presents the quite interesting conundrum; the better he pitches, the more likely he is to test the market after the season. But that's down the road. The Pirates took a workmanlike win over a team they should beat behind his effort, and they have a long row of those ahead. This would be a propitious time for a streaky team to rip off a few W's.

  • J-Hay, Freeser & Fran each had a pair of knocks.
  • The last Pirates pitcher to throw at least two complete games in the same season with less than 100 pitches in each was Paul Maholm in 2007 (99 & 91). Ivan's pair of CG took 98 & 94 tosses.
  • Josh Harrison extended his hitting streak to eight games. The Pirates have four complete games this campaign, with the other two from Jeff Locke and Jameson Taillon. They didn't have any in 2015.
  • Congrats to skipper Clint on winning his 500th game with the Bucs, the sixth Pirates manager to reach that milestone. 
  • 14 Buccos have been beaned by the Reds in 12 games this season. The Pirates have plunked five Cincinnatians.
  • 22,288 fans attended the contest; the Bucs might have been better off unloading the Frankie bobbleheads during a school night. 
  • Tyler Glasnow will work out the bullpen, per Clint. Drew Hutchison and then Trevor Williams are the next men up for a spot start.
  • The Altoona Curve took a 3-1 victory over Akron in Game Two of the Eastern League playoffs, tying the set at a game apiece. 


Berdj Joseph Rassam said...

Nova was in peak form today.

Ron Ieraci said...

He sure was. In his first three outings, I wasn't at all sure about him; his stuff was elevated and tho he was winning, there was a lot of solid contact. But now he's living at the bottom of the strike zone, coaxing grounders and soft contact with his whole package - sinker, curve, four-seamer and change. Dunno if he's found a comfort zone here - he and Cervelli seem like soul mates - or if he's just on a roll (he's had month-long runs throughout his career). Either way, the FO did a nice job identifying him as a fit. If he keeps it up, he'll not only be a big boost down the stretch, but in line for a nice deal at the end of the season. Interesting to see if he re-ups here in that case or goes the way of JA Happ & Eddie Volquez.