For six innings, Ivan Nova looked like the pitcher he was in the first half of this year. Unfortunately, for nine innings the Pirates’ hitters continued their season-long focus on their golf games against yet another mediocre Cincinnati pitcher. The result was a 2-1 loss.
Maybe it was the result of skipping a start. Nova zipped through the first six innings against the hard-hitting Reds, allowing just one hit, walking nobody and striking out six. He needed only 63 pitches to do it.
Sadly, the Pirates’ offense just didn’t show up . . . again. Sal Romano came in with a 4.54 ERA and 1.51 WHIP, but he might as well have been Bob Gibson in his prime. The Pirates managed only five hits and no walks against him over eight innings. They never even threatened. The only time they got a runner past first came on a one-out double by Elias Diaz, who had two hits, in the fifth.
Nova suddenly weakened in the seventh. The first two hitters homered and doubled. After a fly out and his only walk, Nova left with right calf discomfort. Clint Hurdle went with Dan Runzler, whom the Pirates called up on purpose following a mediocre season in AAA. (That way he couldn’t end up with a direct competitor like, oh, the Samsung Lions.) Runzler promptly gave up an RBI single to make it 2-0.
The Pirates fake rallied in the ninth against Kevin Shackelford, a 28-year-old rookie who came in with a 5.32 ERA. Andrew McCutchen got the Pirates on the board with his 26th HR, but that was all they could muster besides a two-out walk to David Freese. The Reds went with Cody Reed, another sub-replacement-level pitcher with an ERA of 6.00, and he got Gregory Polanco to ground out.