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Ivan Nova pitches better, but Pirates fall to Brewers, 3-1

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Pittsburgh Pirates v Milwaukee Brewers Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Ivan Nova pitched better than he had in a string of lackluster performances lately, allowing just four hits in six innings, but the Pirates couldn’t do much against Brewers starter Zach Davies and former Bucco Keon Broxton hit a back-breaking homer as Milwaukee won, 3-1, on Tuesday night at Miller Park.

Nova struck out four and walked three, and only one of his two runs was earned.

A single and a walk got Nova in trouble with no outs in the second, but Neil Walker — you surely remember he’s slow — hit a double-play ball to Josh Bell, but Bell’s throw to second was wild, loading the bases. Manny Pina hit into a force out at third, scoring one run to put Milwaukee on the board, then Eric Sogard hit into a 4-6-3 double play.

The Pirates tied it at 1 briefly in the sixth. With two outs, Adam Frazier smacked a hanging curveball down the right-field line for a triple, scoring Bell from first. Jordy Mercer couldn’t bring Frazier in, grounding out to second to end the inning.

In the bottom of the sixth, with two outs and runners on the corners after an intentional walk to Walker, Pina hit a grounder to the left side. It hit David Freese, but Mercer got to it and fired quickly to first. The throw appeared to beat Pina, but Bell may have pulled his foot off first base, and the runner was called save, allowing the Brewers’ run to score for a 2-1 lead.

Clint Hurdle had already used his challenge when Bell was out at the plate after a throw from right field got away from the third baseman in the fourth. (At least I think he was out. What was at question was whether Pina blocked the plate too early.) Hurdle asked the umpires to initiate a review. It appears the responsibility falls on crew chief and massive doofus Joe West to allow the review, so I guess I’m not surprised they didn’t even look at the play, but that’s pretty ridiculous. The play was clearly close enough to warrant another look; it just hurts the game to leave it up to chance with egotistical umpires.

Bell may very well have pulled his foot anyway, but how are we, or especially the umpires, to know?

In any event, I hope Hurdle doesn’t start to hoard his challenges now. He’s smart enough to know it’s generally a good play to use your challenge the first time you might feel the need. I’d hate to have him become gun shy after that.

Davies lasted 6 2-3 innings, with just two strikeouts and two walks, and one run on six hits.

A two-out Starling Marte single brought a switch to Jared Hughes in the seventh. Marte stole second, but Josh Harrison only tapped out to Hughes.

A.J. Schugel relieved Nova in the seventh and allowed a home run to the first batter he faced, the pinch-hitting Broxton. That was especially fun.

Joaquin Benoit pitched a scoreless eighth, but Jacob Barnes and Corey Knebel shut the Pirates down.

The Pirates have lost three in a row. The teams play the second half of the two-game set at 2:10 p.m. Wednesday.