The Pirates played miserably and were buried by the Nationals 6-1 Saturday night. A cascade of hits, errors, hit batsman, and a wild pitch over the first four innings put this one largely out of reach early. With the win, the Nationals clinched the N.L East title and chopped the Pirates' Wild Card elimination number to five.
Nova lasts four
Ivan Nova was rocked in the first inning for four hits and three runs. He also hit two batters in the inning. The right-hander survived the second and third without damage, but a run of terrible defense in the fourth led to three more (unearned) runs and ended his night.
On paper, this is the second poor outing in a row for Nova and one has to wonder what, if any, effect these outings will have on his contract negotiations with the Pirates. There likely won't be much on the line for the team when he makes his final start of the season against the Cubs, but Nova could be pitching for millions. His ERA since joining the Pirates now sits at 3.19.
"[Nova's stuff] wasn't as crisp as it has been," Clint Hurdle said. "I thought he was getting into a much better routine getting into the fourth inning. First inning he was elevated and wasn't as sharp. After that I thought he was getting into a very nice spot. We more or less took him out of the game with our defense."
Nova's line is ugly. He allowed eight hits, threw one wild pitch and hit two batters. He struck out two and walked none. Two of the eight hits came via bunts in fourth. The Nationals posted three unearned runs without a ball leaving the infield.
"I put up some pretty good innings after the first inning," Nova said. "There were some plays we couldn't make, but that is the game."
The fourth inning
The top of the fourth was a defensive disaster. The Pirates committed three errors, allowed two bunt singles and threw a wild pitch. It all led to three unearned runs.
The first error came on a sacrifice bunt that Francisco Cervelli fielded and winged into right field. For some reason, no one was covering first, which seemed to cross up the Pirates' catcher and led to the errand throw.
"Jaso's coming in for the bunt and when he sees Cervelli is going to make a play it looks like he going back, but then he sees Frazier going over and then they both peeled off at the same time," Hurdle said. "So, Cervelli is going to go to first, but there is nobody there. He tried to hold his throw and the ball came out his hand. Miscommunication on the right side. Somebody's got to get to the bag."
The second error involved was throw home by Sean Rodriguez that came in low and slightly off line.
"If he throws it in the air he's out," Hurdle said of Rodriguez's throw. "I have no problem with the decision."
Finally, the final error was a high and wild throw by Adam Frazier to second on an attempted double play.
"We need to get two outs there," Hurdle said." It wasn't good and took him off the bag. It was a bad defensive inning."
Josh Bell lofted a majestic solo home run in the third inning. The ball was a no-doubter off the bat, but it wasn't one of those massive blasts. Instead it arced high into the evening sky and dropped gently a third of the way up over the Clemente Wall.