PITTSBURGH -- Ivan Nova said he didn't realize he didn't have his best curveball on Saturday until the game had already started. After feeling fine during his bullpen session, he claimed he lost the pitch in the game and that he thought he "threw two good ones the whole game."
PITTSBURGH -- Ivan Nova said he didn't realize he didn't have his best curveball on Saturday until the game had already started. After feeling fine during his bullpen session, he claimed he lost the pitch in the game and that he thought he "threw two good ones the whole game." As a result, Nova was primarily limited to three pitches: four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball and changeup.
It didn't prove to impact his final result, however, as he allowed just one earned run through six innings of work in the Pirates' 6-2 win over the Reds at PNC Park. In two starts since being activated from the DL, Nova has gone 2-0 while striking out 11 to allow just two earned runs in 11 2/3 innings.
According to Statcast™, only nine of Nova's 92 pitches on Saturday were curveballs. Conversely, the right-hander threw 37 four-seam fastballs and 36 two-seam fastballs.
"Even though I walked a couple guys today, the fastball command is better than what it was before I hit the DL," Nova said. "I think I've been able to control it a bit better. I think that's been the key."
With the victory, the Pirates moved back to .500 and secured their first series win since sweeping the White Sox in a two-game series May 15-16. They'd lost their previous eight series.
"If somebody would have told me you're going to lose eight series, you'd think you're going to be horrible," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "We're not horrible. We're fighting. And we believe that our best baseball is in front of us. You've got to go play it, though."
The lone run surrendered by Nova came in the second inning. He ran the count full against Eugenio Suarez, who fouled off three straight pitches before launching a home run to center field on the 12th pitch of the at-bat.
Tied at one run in the third inning, Colin Moran connected on a 3-1 fastball over the middle of the plate and hit it into the shrubbery in center field to give the Pirates the lead. Elias Diaz added a solo shot of his own in the fourth, swinging on the first pitch he saw and belting it to left field to lead off the inning.
Following a self-inflicted wound by way of a fielding error, Nova found himself in a bases-loaded jam in the fourth inning. He worked his way out it, however, thanks to a groundout that kept the Pirates' lead at 2-1.
The Bucs' offense added insurance in the sixth to cement the victory. Josh Bell led the inning off with a double and later scored on a David Freese single.
In the ensuing at-bat, Harrison hit the Pirates' third homer of the game to open up a five-run lead and put the game away.
"They say you pitch, you play defense, [and] you hit, you got a good chance of winning," Harrison said.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Working through the jam: With two outs and two on in the fourth inning, Nova induced a ground ball from Luis Castillo. He ran over to cover the bag at first, but failed to catch the ball on an assist from Bell, allowing Castillo to reach safely. As a result, he was forced to face Billy Hamilton with the bases loaded and a two-run lead. He escaped unscathed, however, by getting a groundout from Hamilton to end the inning.
"That play right there, it can be maddening at times because you work on it. It's maddening for them," Hurdle said. "They work on it. You put yourself in a precarious position, man. … It was good that he was able to pitch over it and around it, no doubt."
Moran, Diaz and Harrison each went deep in Saturday's win over the Reds. It was the first time the Pirates have collectively hit three or more home runs in a game since hitting four in a win over the Giants on May 11.
HE SAID IT
"For one, nothing changes for us as far as our day-to-day grind, preparing. But we also know what's happened here the past couple weeks. Guys are still plugging away and coming ready to show up every day. We've had three in a row, but we know that doesn't speak for what's happened or what will happen. We've just got to continue bringing it every day."-- Harrison, on the Pirates winning their third straight game and first series since mid-May
The Pirates will conclude their three-game series against the Reds on Sunday at PNC Park, where right-hander Joe Musgrove is set to start against Anthony DeSclafani at 1:35 p.m. ET. The Bucs have lost Musgrove's last two starts, but he is 2-1 with a 2.16 ERA in four outings.
Mason Wittner is a reporter for MLB.com based in Pittsburgh.