In what’s become a familiar pattern, the Pirates scored 5 times but the other team scored more, as Ivan Nova and the White Flag Brigade coughed up 9 runs to Cincinnati.
The Pirates couldn’t touch Reds’ starter Bob
Gibson Stephenson, who used a hard downward breaking slider to strike out the first six Bucs batters of the game. The Reds then took a 2-0 lead against Nova when with one out in the second Eugenio Suarez lined a double to left and Scott Schebler hit a sharp grounder inside first that John Jaso, hat in hand, chased all around right field until Schebler rounded third but decided to settle for a triple. He then scored the second run on Tucker Barnhart’s sac fly.
The Pirates battled back after their ignominious start. Francisco Cervelli, in his first plate appearance back off the disabled list, walked to lead off the third, breaking up Stephenson’s perfect game. After Nova flailed in a bunt attempt, Starling Marte and Adam Frazier lined singles to the outfield. Cervelli scored on Frazier’s hit, but pulled his quad between third and home, virtually guaranteeing a return to the DL.
Pittsburgh tied the score in the fourth when Josh Bell beat out an infield hit and then with two outs John Jaso drove a ball to deep left center. Bell scored when center fielder Billy Hamilton tripped over his feet, allowing the ball to fall on the warning track and Jaso to lolly-gag into second base. Chris Stewart then singled into the hole at short, but Jaso was only able to advance to third, where he was stranded.
That was as close as it would get for the night. Scotter Gennett led off the bottom of the fourth reaching when second baseman Josh Harrison booted his grounder, and came around to score, one base at a time, on consecutive singles by Suarez, Schebler and Barnart. Nova looked like he might limit the damage when with the base sloaded and no one out he struck out both the pitcher Stephenson and Hamilton, but before striking out Zack Cozart, Nova unleashed a wild pitch on a curve in the dirt to score another, which gave the Reds a 4-2 lead they would never relinquish.
Just in case Pirates’ fans tried to maintain hope, Nova coughed up a solo homer to Suarez and a two-run shot to Schebler in the fifth, his 24th and 25th allowed on the year, and staking the Reds to a 7-2 lead. After winning Pitcher of the Month for his 1.50 ERA in five April starts, Nova has been tagged for 23 homers and a 4.65 ERA in his last 21 starts.
The Pirates teased the fans by leaving the bases loaded in both the fourth and sixth, and were given a glimmer of hope when Josh Bell, who’s hit 338/399/580 in 44 games since July 4, slammed a three-run homer in the seventh to close the gap to 7-5.
That wasn’t enough as Daniel Hudson loaded the bases in the bottom of that inning on a walk and two hit batsmen, making way to A.J. Schugel who promptly served up a two-run double to pinch-hitter Patrick Kivlehan, sealing the score at 9-5.
The series continues Saturday evening. Gerrit Cole, who has a record of 0-6 with a 5.14 ERA in nine career starts vs Cincinnati, will pitch against rookie Luis Castillo, who’s done well so far with a 3.45 ERA in 12 starts.