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Marathon man Nova throws another CG, beats Reds

MLB.com

PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates no longer needed a stopper-type performance from Ivan Nova after they ended their eight-game losing streak on Wednesday. They needed to start the makings of a roll and build momentum to improve their fading postseason hopes. In either function, Nova was the right guy for the job. Nova went the distance again on Thursday night and remained unbeaten for his new club as the Pirates notched a 4-1 victory over the Reds at PNC Park.

Pittsburgh inched back to a .500 record at 69-69 and four games behind St. Louis for the second National League Wild Card spot. Sending nine men to the plate in the bottom of the first inning with five hits vs. Dan Straily, the Bucs jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead.

Full Game Coverage

PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates no longer needed a stopper-type performance from Ivan Nova after they ended their eight-game losing streak on Wednesday. They needed to start the makings of a roll and build momentum to improve their fading postseason hopes. In either function, Nova was the right guy for the job. Nova went the distance again on Thursday night and remained unbeaten for his new club as the Pirates notched a 4-1 victory over the Reds at PNC Park.

Pittsburgh inched back to a .500 record at 69-69 and four games behind St. Louis for the second National League Wild Card spot. Sending nine men to the plate in the bottom of the first inning with five hits vs. Dan Straily, the Bucs jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead.

Full Game Coverage

"Just continue to go out each and every day and take it one game at a time," Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer said. "We were in a rough stretch there, but we know that we can turn things around real quick, and there's still plenty of games to make a difference."

The big blow was Jung Ho Kang hitting an 0-2 fastball for a two-run double to the wall in left-center field that just missed the glove of Reds center fielder Jose Peraza.

"That's the one pitch of the game I want back," Straily said. "I want to change everything about that pitch, but you can't do that. I have to live with it."

Francisco Cervelli added an RBI single that squeaked through the middle into center field. That was enough room for Nova, who retired the first 12 batters in a row before allowing one earned run and six hits with no walks and four strikeouts to improve to 5-0 in seven starts since being acquired by the Pirates from the Yankees on Aug. 1. It was the fifth complete game of his career, and second in his last four starts.

Video: CIN@PIT: Cervelli grounds an RBI single up the middle

"Pretty much more of the same from Nova, and it's really good," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "It's really consistent and it really plays well at the Major League level."

Straily pitched five innings with three earned runs, seven hits, three walks (two intentional) and six strikeouts while hitting two batters as the Reds lost for the fifth straight game and the ninth time in their last 11 games. The Pirates added a run vs. Keyvius Sampson in the sixth when Josh Harrison hit a one-out double and scored on Andrew McCutchen's RBI single.

Video: CIN@PIT: McCutchen rips an RBI single to left

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Super Nova: Nova continues to do his best J.A. Happ imitation for the Pirates. Happ pitched outstanding baseball for the Pirates a year ago after being acquired in a trade. Nova, after coming over from the Yankees, has followed in his footsteps. He also helped himself at the plate with a base hit in the seventh inning. It was his fourth career hit, and third since coming to the Pirates. Nova also benefited from some outstanding defense.

Video: CIN@PIT: Mercer robs Peraza with a tremendous play

"McCutchen went back on some balls tonight in center field and made some really good plays there," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "They came up with the big double plays and just didn't give us a lot."

Video: CIN@PIT: McCutchen leaps to snag Duvall's liner

Kang Ho: Since coming off the disabled list, Kang has been on a tear, and it continued with his big two-run knock in the first off Straily. Kang came into the game 6-for-10 with three home runs in his previous three contests. Kang now has 48 RBIs on the season.

Video: CIN@PIT: Kang plates a pair with a two-run double

"He's in a good place, he's seeing the ball well," Hurdle said. "He's looking really good in the field as well. This is sharp stuff he's come back with."

Shutout avoided: The Reds' first rally of the night began in unique fashion as Tucker Barnhart bunted for a leadoff single and later reached third base as Peraza grounded into a double play. That enabled Barnhart to score Cincinnati's first run vs. Nova when Zack Cozart beat out an infield hit despite a nice diving stop by Harrison near second base. The Reds could not muster another run, however, and have scored nine runs total during the five-game losing streak.

"He didn't give us much to get excited about," Price said of Nova, who also induced two double plays on the ground. "He did a really nice job, even the few times he had runners on base. He gets so many ground balls, he's always a pitch away from getting out of a tough situation with a double play. We did have some guys on. He was just able to manage the game extremely well."

First hit, not really: Leading off the fifth for the Reds, who had been hitless through four innings, Adam Duvall squibbed a ball near the mound that Nova fielded before he made a rushed bouncing throw to first base. Duvall reached safely and was originally credited with a single before he was erased by a double play. Once Scott Schebler delivered a clean single lined to left field with two outs in the inning, the official scorer changed Duvall's hit to an error charged to Nova.

"It definitely takes off pressure to have that first hit out of the way," Schebler said of batting when he thought Duvall still had a single. "Hitting is contagious. You guys know that and we know that. For Duvie, even though it ended up not being a hit, that helped the game out for us offensively."

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, over the last 75 seasons, the only other Pirates pitcher to go 4-0 or 5-0 in his first five decisions was Dave LaPoint, who went 4-0 in 1988.

QUOTABLE
"I felt good. It's not like I had my best stuff today. It's not like I had really everything going. I was fighting each inning and just competing and not giving in. It was one of those things that I got out of a lot of jams, but I just had to keep pitching." -- Straily, who is 11-8 with a 3.88 ERA in 30 games (27 starts) this season

WHAT'S NEXT
Reds: The Reds will turn to Tim Adleman with the hopes of ending their losing streak when the series continues at 7:05 p.m. ET on Friday. In his Major League debut on May 1 at PNC Park, Adleman allowed two runs and three hits over six innings for a no-decision during a 6-5 victory in 11 innings.

Pirates: Rookie left-hander Steven Brault (0-2. 3.32) will make his fifth career Major League start on Friday night against the Reds. Brault was tagged for one run in five innings in his last start against the Brewers on Sunday, but lost a 10-0 decision.

Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

George Von Benko is a contributor to MLB.com and covered the Pirates on Thursday.