Perhaps it’s better this way.
I was getting kind of tired of “Hey, if the Pirates sweep this series, they’ll only be a couple games back, then if they win a few more, and a few more, and then a couple more, they’ll be in the race for the division.”
If the Pirates didn’t crush that miniature hope getting swept by the second-worst team in Major League Baseball over the weekend, their tiresome, predictable series opener with the worst team went a long way towards snuffing that pesky little thought that the Pirates still might go somewhere in 2017.
Ivan Nova gave up two early home runs, and the Pirates managed just four hits off Aaron Nola, losing meekly to the Phillies, 4-0, on Monday night.
The Pirates will enter the Fourth of July seven games out of first place in an NL Central race no one seems to want to win.
Nova wasn’t particularly bad. For a contact-oriented pitcher in Citizens Bank Park, four runs isn’t all that bad. He gave up a pair of two-run homers to the Philly park’s cozy little power alleys, to Freddy Galvis in the first inning and Maikel Franco in the third.
Nova allowed seven hits in six innings, striking out one and walking one.
The young Nola, however, mowed down the Buccos hitters. He didn’t allow a hit until the fifth — a two-out Jordy Mercer double. He would allow four hits total, striking out eight, walking one and blanking the Pirates over seven innings. He got eight groundouts versus three flyouts.
The Pirates got another two-out double in the sixth, from Andrew McCutchen, but Josh Bell struck out to put an end to that.
Singles from David Freese and Gregory Polanco — Polanco’s a pop-up the Phillies’ fielders just sort of lost — got the Pirates in business with no outs in the seventh. But Francisco Cervelli hit into a force out, and Nola fanned both Mercer and pinch-hitter John Jaso.
The Pirates didn’t reach base against relievers Joaquin Benoit and Hector Neris.
Wade LeBlanc continued to make his case for team MVP in crappy games, pitching two scoreless innings with a couple strikeouts.