The Pirates scored four in the bottom of the first inning and held on for a 6-2 victory over Tampa at PNC Park on Wednesday night, despite poor pitching from starter Ivan Nova, who couldn’t miss any bats - but Rays starter Blake Snell couldn’t find the strike zone.
Four of the five batters Nova faced in the top of the first smacked line drives off Nova but three were caught. Evan Longoria’s double just beyond Andrew McCutchen’s outstretched glove brought home Corey Dickerson for a short lived 1-0 lead.
With two out and no one on in the bottom of the opening frame, Snell walked both McCutchen and David Freese before Jose Osuna ripped a ground-rule double into the left-field corner to tie the game. After Josh Bell walked, Elias Diaz poked a single into right to plate two more. The final run was scored by Freese on a wild pitch to the backstop.
Meanwhile Nova had was was likely his worst start of the season, but he managed to strand nearly all the runner. Two hits allowed in the second but no runs, three in the third for a single run, and walks in the fourth and fifth, including to an Americal League pitcher. It was the first time this year that Nova failed to go at least six innings, allowing seven hits and a pair of walks, while throwing only 52 of 89 pitches for strikes (58%) 22 of the 52 strikes were put in play (42%), an very high number.
Snell also struggled to find the plate, walking five and striking out six in his five innings, throwing 56 of 98 for strikes (57%) with 13 in play (23%).
The Pirates scored insurance runs off Blake in the fourth on Josh Bell’s 15th homer into the seats down the left-field line, and on Jose Osuna’s double in the fifth (his second of the game) which drove in McCutchen.
Daniel Hudson, Tony Watson, Juan Nicasio and Felipe Rivero each pitched a scoreless inning in relief, as manager Clint Hurdle didn’t trust anyone else to hold a four-run lead in the ninth.
Osuna and Diaz were the only Pirates with two hits, while McCutchen scored each time after a pair of walks.
The series will conclude Thursday night as Jameson Taillon faces Chris Archer.