Ivan Nova continued to look another in a line of remarkable Yankee gifts to the Pirates, dominating his old team in a 2-1 nail-biting win.
Nova allowed just one run, on a seventh-inning HR by Jacoby Ellsbury, over seven innings. He gave up just four hits and a walk, his first walk of the season, oddly to the opposing pitcher. Nova fanned seven, even beginning the game by striking out the side in the first, and he contributed a nice defensive play in snaring a liner by Greg Bird. The Yankees never got a runner to third against Nova and the one time they got two on base, he got a double play grounder to end the inning.
The Pirates’ offense, meanwhile, continued its hair-pulling inability to get runners across the plate. They managed to take an early lead in typically disappointing fashion after loading the bases with nobody out in the first. Gregory Polanco fanned, David Freese hit a sacrifice fly, and Jose Osuna popped up. Chris Stewart improbably hit his first career triple in the second with one out, but Nova was easily victimized for a strikeout and Jordy Mercer stranded the runner. The offense got another brief respite from futility in the third when Gregory Polanco ripped a double into the right-field corner, scoring Andrew McCutchen, who’d walked and who showed his speed isn’t yet a thing of the past. Polanco for his part was 2-4, which is a good sign from a crucial player who’s done very little all year.
From there, the Pirates went about their standard procedure of missing chances, finishing 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position. Singles in the fourth, fifth and sixth, two of them leading off, just led to double plays. A single and two walks in the seventh loaded the bases with none out for a second time, but the Pirates got nothing.
With the offense again in sleep mode, the bullpen once again had to be perfect to preserve a win. They didn’t make it easy, nor did the defense. In the eighth, Daniel Hudson gave up a single and a walk with one out, then after a pop up he wild pitched them up. He rescued the situation, though, by fanning Starlin Castro with a high, hard one. Things got even hairier in the ninth. Tony Watson — whose advanced stats are, to put it mildly, very ugly — managed to get a line out to start the inning, but like Hudson then gave up a single and a walk, the latter after getting ahead 0-2 on Matt Holliday. A Josh Harrison error on a force play then loaded the bases, but Watson fanned Aaron Hicks on three pitches. Thankfully, that brought up the weak-hitting Pete Kozma, who’d entered the game as a pinch runner. Watson still managed to fall behind, 2-0, but Kozma helpfully chased the next pitch and grounded out to give Watson his sixth in a series of shaky saves.
So for the first time a Pirates series didn’t end in a sweep, but at least they won a series from the Evil Empire. Tomorrow they host the Cubs.