Pittsburgh couldn't get the big hit it needed, squandering a good performance from Ivan Nova in a 2-1 loss to the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on Friday. The Bucs went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position and left nine men on base.
Pittsburgh has now lost four of its last five games. In all of those losses, the Pirates have scored two runs or fewer. They have scored two or fewer in six of their last eight games.
It is still very early, and the April weather has been tough to hit in -- on this night, a fierce wind was blowing straight in from center field, which added another challenge.
"You have elements of the weather and things, you can't really control where the ball goes," Pirates outfielder Corey Dickerson said. "You want to get frustrated, but you can't. You just have to stay in the right frame of mind and stay positive."
The Pirates had chances against Phillies starter Ben Lively for most of the night, putting runners on base in every inning against the young Philadelphia right-hander. However, they stranded seven men on base during his six innings. Pittsburgh's only run off Lively came in the sixth when Jordy Mercer lifted a sacrifice fly to right that scored Francisco Cervelli.
"We hit some balls really hard tonight that didn't find grass," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "At the end of the day, [Lively] hung in there, made the pitches and kept us off the plate."
Nova deserved a better fate than a no-decision for his efforts. During his six innings, Nova was able to command the strike zone and stay out of serious trouble. A Carlos Santana shot in the first inning was knocked down by the strong winds. After that point, Nova rarely allowed anything hard hit in the air, surrendering his only run on a Rhys Hoskins fielder's choice in the sixth that scored Santana. Most of that success came on the changeup, which the Phillies never really seem to barrel up.
"I think it was the biggest pitch of the night," Nova said. "I had a good feel for it today. I didn't have the curveball working [early], but that was the one I felt comfortable throwing."
"The day he takes the mound, he is prepared, focused and intentional," Hurdle said. "He's been a really good leader in the rotation for us."
George Kontos took the loss after he surrendered a one-out triple to Odubel Herrera in the bottom of the eighth that just went past the diving arm of Josh Bell inside the first-base bag, scoring Cesar Hernandez -- who led off with a double -- with the eventual game-winning run.
"If I execute that pitch there, we may still be playing," Kontos said. "Just caught too much of the plate, the infield was in and it was a perfectly placed ground ball. That's what happens when you don't execute as well as you should in those situations."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED The Pirates were able to load the bases with two outs in the third inning of a scoreless game. However, Dickerson's fly ball to right ended up getting knocked down by the wind to end the threat.
"If the wind wasn't blowing in, I got enough of it," Dickerson said. "But when the wind is howling in, it's one of those things. Too bad."
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS Hoskins walked after Herrera's triple, but the Phillies ended the inning with a bizarre 1-3-4-2-5-8-7 double play to end the inning. Hoskins got caught in a rundown trying to steal second, but then Herrera wandered too far down the third-base line. Herrera ended up in a rundown and eventually got tagged out. Hoskins then stopped running to third base as he got caught in a rundown. He got tagged to end the inning. More >
SOUND SMART Nova didn't surrender a walk for a third straight start on Friday night. It is the third time in his career that he's gone three straight starts without issuing a base on balls. His 22 starts without issuing a walk since 2016 are tied for the second most in baseball with Clayton Kershaw, who had 22 entering his start on Friday in Los Angeles. The Indians' Josh Tomlin leads the way with 30.
HE SAID IT "I've been waiting to do that." -- Dickerson, following his outfield-assist role on the 1-3-4-2-5-8-7 double play
UP NEXT The Pirates' stay across the state continues on Saturday with a 4:05 p.m. ET start at Citizens Bank Park. Steven Brault will go for Pittsburgh, trying to bounce back from a 6-2 loss to the Rockies on Monday night in Pittsburgh where he allowed five runs on five hits in six innings. He will face Philadelphia's Aaron Nola, who held Pittsburgh to an 0.64 ERA in two starts (1-1) in 2017.
Kevin Cooney is a contributor to MLB.com based in Philadelphia.