The Pirates rode the arms of Ivan Nova and Felipe Rivero, along with the surprising bat of rookie catcher Elias Diaz, to down the Marlins 3-1 in the final game of the series which the teams split with two wins apiece.
The Pirates jumped on their former longtime teammate Jeff Locke in the first. With two out and no one on, Jose Osuna lined a single to left and David Freese rifled a ball up the middle to put runners at first and third. Elias Diaz, batting 5th today while filling in for the injured Francisco Cervelli, battled Locke for eight pitches before lining a ball into left-center for a two-run double.
Meanwhile Nova was perfect through three. JT Riddle led off the fourth with a ground single to left and an out later Freese fielded Christian Yelich’s grounder but made an errant throw to second, leaving two runners on. Nova didn’t waver, getting Marcell Ozuna to fly out to right and the Derek Dietrich to line out to Freese to end the inning. Miami would not put another runner on-base versus Nova as he set them down one-two-three in the fifth and sixth innings, just as he had done in the first three.
The Pirates chased Locke with one out in the sixth, loading the bases on consecutive singles by Diaz and Andrew McCutchen and Josh Bell. Jordy Mercer greeted reliever Brad Ziegler with a line single to right field to drive in the third run of the game. At that point manager Clint Hurdle went for the opportunity to break the game open by pinch-hitting for Nova, but John Jaso grounded into a reverse double play, where Marlins’ first baseman Tyler Moore touched the bag and then threw home where catcher J.T. Realmuto tagged out the high-hurdling McCutchen.
Juan Nicasio, the allegedly new co-closer, allowed one hit in a scoreless seventh. Daniel Hudson wasn’t so fortunate in the eighth, as The Ancient Mariner Ichiro! Suzuki greeted him with a homer into the first row of the right field bleachers, cutting the Pirates’ lead to 3-1. Dee Gordon singled as a pinch-hitter but Hudson got Giancarlo Stanton, another pinch-hitter, swinging for the first out. JT Riddle grounded a ball right to Josh Bell at the first base bag, giving the Pirates their chance at a reverse double play, but while Gordon was caught in a run-down, Bell’s toss clanked off Mercer’s glove, allowing Gordon to return to first.
At that point Clint Hurdle’s heart apparently had enough of Hudson pitching to the tying run and for the second day in a row summoned Felipe Rivero with two outs in the eighth. Again, Rivero made child’s play of the Miami batters, retiring all four men he faced on only 12 pitches.
Hurdle made two interesting decision in this game - first, removing Nova before the pitcher could start an inning while already into the third time around the order, and then again summoning Rivero in the eighth with the tying runner at the plate on the way to a four out save. Even though the lifting of Nova was prompted by a pinch-hitting decision, both illustrate some out of the box thinking in the use of his pitching staff.
Monday night the surging Colorado Rockies (41-23, 1st place) come to PNC Park to face the Pirates (28-35), as Jameson Taillon (2-1, 3.31) returns from surgery for testicular cancer after three impressive minor league rehab starts. He’ll face Kyle Freeland (7-3, 3.34)