PITTSBURGH -- Ivan Nova's afternoon began with a trio of rockets launched into the outfield. Gorkys Hernandez, Andrew McCutchen and Brandon Belt scorched three loud outs, all with triple-digit exit velocities, but those didn't bother Nova. The ball that never left the infield did.After the Giants scored five runs in
PITTSBURGH -- Ivan Nova's afternoon began with a trio of rockets launched into the outfield. Gorkys Hernandez, Andrew McCutchen and Brandon Belt scorched three loud outs, all with triple-digit exit velocities, but those didn't bother Nova. The ball that never left the infield did.
After the Giants scored five runs in the sixth and cruised to a 5-0 win over the Pirates at PNC Park, Nova lamented a comebacker that could have been the inning's final out. Instead of getting through six innings with just one run allowed, Nova was charged with four runs in 5 2/3 innings and left the game feeling like he deserved better than those numbers might indicate.
"Obviously it's not what you want. I feel like I pitched better than what the line shows," Nova said. "I don't feel like I had my best stuff today, either. I was grinding out there, competing."
Despite a number of hard-hit balls, Nova worked five scoreless innings before Hernandez -- a former Pirate -- homered to left-center to lead off the sixth. Nova retired McCutchen and Evan Longoria, and Belt singled to center between the two outs.
Up came Pablo Sandoval, who hit a chopper right back at Nova. The ball bounced off Nova's glove and into no man's land between the mound and third baseman David Freese, giving Sandoval time to reach safely.
"If I make that play, it's three outs," Nova said. "I didn't make it. I paid for it."
Six pitches later, Brandon Crawford hit an RBI double to center field and ended Nova's day. Nick Hundley immediately hit a three-run homer off reliever Richard Rodriguez, with two of those runs charged to Nova. It was an improvement on his last two outings, when he allowed five runs without completing five innings, but it left a bitter taste in Nova's mouth.
"I feel like today was a good step forward," Nova said. "Hopefully next time will be better."
His counterpart, Derek Holland, gave up four hits and five walks but struck out seven over 6 1/3 innings. Holland relied on a four-pitch mix to keep Pittsburgh's red-hot lineup off balance, shutting out a club that had scored 42 runs during a five-game winning streak.
The Pirates went 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position, and their best opportunities may have been their first two against Holland. Francisco Cervelli led off the first with an eight-pitch walk only to be stranded at second after a groundout and a pair of strikeouts. Corey Dickerson hit a leadoff double in the second, but he too was left standing on second after two groundouts and a strikeout.
"You've got to tip your hat to Derek Holland," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, who was Texas' hitting coach in 2010 when Holland pitched for the Rangers. "He's a completely different pitcher. He beat us with a kitchen sink. Any pitch, any time, 92 [mph] to 80 [mph], 12 miles an hour [difference], and they were strikes and the ball was around the zone.
"We pushed to get out there, and we couldn't come away with really even hard contact in those situations. And our team's been swinging the bats pretty well. The matchup went his way when the at-bats counted."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Breaking it open: Rodriguez has been a revelation in relief since the Pirates called him up on April 13. The right-hander entered the day having allowed only two runs while striking out 23 over 13 1/3 innings. Two keys to his success: a better-than-advertised fastball and his ability to throw first-pitch strikes.
Rodriguez relieved Nova with two on and two outs in the sixth, and his first pitch to Hundley was a 78.7-mph slider up in the zone. Hundley sent the pitch a Statcast-projected 338 feet to the left-field corner, barely over the fence and just inside the foul pole, for a game-breaking three-run homer.
"With a guy with that much velocity, you've got to get ready for the heater. So, thankfully, he made a mistake with the breaking ball," Hundley said. "You recognize mistakes, and if you get something like that, you've got to do damage on it. Especially the way he's been throwing."
Cervelli, batting leadoff for the first time in his career, became the first Pirates catcher to hit atop the order since Jason Kendall did it against the Reds on Oct. 3, 2004. Cervelli went 1-for-4 with a double, a walk and three strikeouts. Why move him there on Sunday?
"Inspiration," Hurdle said. "Today seemed like a day where it just kind of fit."
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Starling Marte made a 4-star catch, per Statcast™, in the top of the fourth inning to rob Sandoval of a hit with a runner on second base. Sandoval connected on the 3-2 pitch and laced it to center with an exit velocity of 108.8 mph, forcing Marte to go 34 feet in just 2.9 seconds to make the sliding play.
After an off-day Monday, right-hander Trevor Williams will face the White Sox for the second time in a week when he starts at PNC Park at 7:05 p.m. ET on Tuesday. Williams allowed four runs in five innings last Wednesday in Chicago. Hard-throwing righty Reynaldo Lopez will start for the White Sox.
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.