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Nova shaky as Bucs drop 3rd straight to Nats

MLB.com @basebollie

WASHINGTON -- Right-hander Ivan Nova arrived in D.C. on a roll, but hit a roadblock as the Pirates dropped their third straight game in a 9-3 loss to the Nats on Wednesday night at Nationals Park. 

Nova got off to an ominous start, allowing a leadoff shot to slugger Bryce Harper -- the first leadoff home run of the Nats star's career and his second homer in as many days. Two batters later, Matt Adams went deep for his third home run in two games.

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WASHINGTON -- Right-hander Ivan Nova arrived in D.C. on a roll, but hit a roadblock as the Pirates dropped their third straight game in a 9-3 loss to the Nats on Wednesday night at Nationals Park. 

Nova got off to an ominous start, allowing a leadoff shot to slugger Bryce Harper -- the first leadoff home run of the Nats star's career and his second homer in as many days. Two batters later, Matt Adams went deep for his third home run in two games.

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"They jumped on me early," Nova said. "You see Harper in the first inning, Adams, they are an aggressive team. I missed some locations -- to those two guys especially -- and they took advantage of it."

Video: PIT@WSH: Harper unloads a leadoff HR to second deck

A night after the Pirates' pitching staff gave up 12 runs to the surging Nats, Nova allowed eight runs (five earned) on 11 hits. He struck out five and walked two in 4 2/3 innings, his shortest outing of the season.

Nova, who began the season slowly, appeared to be finding his groove before running into a Washington lineup that is missing regulars Anthony Rendon, Daniel Murphy and Adam Eaton due to injury. Nova hadn't lost a game dating back to April 4, allowing just seven earned runs in 27 2/3 frames (2.28 ERA) without walking a batter in that four-game span.

"Overall, he gave it everything he had," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "It was a little less than what we've seen from him, grown accustomed to seeing, but he battled."

The Bucs' offense struggled to get much going behind Nova against Washington's Stephen Strasburg, who struck out 11 over seven solid innings. Every Nationals starter aside from Strasburg recorded a hit in the contest.

Outfielder Corey Dickerson, who has proven to be a diamond in the rough in the early going for Pittsburgh after he was acquired from Tampa Bay over the offseason, picked up two more hits and drove in a pair of runs. Francisco Cervelli added a solo home run in the sixth inning, his fifth homer of the season.

Video: PIT@WSH: Cervelli clubs a solo homer to right-center

"It's about community," Hurdle said. "We had opportunities in two innings today to push. We needed a hit, we needed a ball in the gap. [It] could have changed the entire direction of the game, so it's not just about pitching. We play better defense, we do something on offense earlier, it can change the landscape of the game as well."

Video: PIT@WSH: Dickerson brings home Polanco with a single

MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Nova loaded the bases with no outs in the fifth and after getting Andrew Stevenson to a 1-2 count, induced a chopper to second baseman Max Moroff, starting in place of Adam Frazier. Moroff charged hard and tried to backhand the bouncing ball, but it ricocheted off his glove and into center field.

Video: PIT@WSH: Nationals score a pair on Moroff's error

Moroff was charged with an error on the play that allowed two runs to cross home plate. Two additional runs would come in to score later in the inning -- on a Wilmer Difo forceout and a Harper single -- to break the game open.

HE SAID IT
"The numbers will tell you that's what we are the last three series, so there you go." -- Hurdle, on whether the Pirates are a streaky team

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Following back-to-back one-out singles by Gregory Polanco and Starling Marte in the first, Josh Bell hit a chopper up the middle to Nationals second baseman Howie Kendrick. Kendrick threw to Trea Turner, who stepped on second base and threw late to first. The umpires initially ruled Marte out at second, but after a Pirates challenge they overturned the call, saying Turner's foot was not on the bag when he had the ball.

Video: PIT@WSH: Pirates load bases after challenge in 1st

Marte was awarded second base, and the next batter, Dickerson, hit a grounder to Turner, who then flipped to Kendrick for the out at second. Kendrick's throw to first was also too late, allowing Polanco to score from third. The Pirates challenged the call at second again, thinking Kendrick's foot was not on the base with the ball in hand, but the call was ruled to stand. Pittsburgh was left without a challenge for the remainder of the game.

Video: PIT@WSH: Bell ruled out at second as call stands

UP NEXT
Right-hander Trevor Williams takes on the Nationals' Jeremy Hellickson in the final game of a four-game series at Nationals Park on Thursday at 1:05 p.m ET, in a game available on MLB Network outside of the Pittsburgh area. It will mark the first start vs. Washington for Williams, who has completed six innings in five of his six outings to begin the season with a 4-1 record and 2.29 ERA.

Oliver Macklin is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter at @basebollie.

Pittsburgh Pirates