Despite a shaky start by Ivan Nova and a continued inability to hit the ball, the Pirates took a 3-2 lead into the ninth against the Cards. Felipe Rivero, however, couldn’t hold it and Neal Huntington’s foolish decision to waive Juan Nicasio came back to haunt him yet again. The result was the Pirates’ eighth loss in their last nine games and 13th in their last 15 by a 4-3 score.
Nova got through five shaky innings. He labored through a lot of deep counts, walked four and gave up six hits, but only one went for extra bases. That was a leadoff double in the first by Matt Carpenter, which led to a run two batters later. In the second, Michael Wacha bunted with two on. Nova had an easy force at third but threw the ball away, letting in a second run. Starling Marte limited the damage, making an alert play to get the trailing runner at third. That was all the scoring off Nova. He pitched around two walks in the third and leadoff singles in the fourth and fifth.
The Pirates couldn’t do a lot with Wacha, but they got to him for two runs in the fourth. David Freese doubled in Marte, who’d walked, and a second run scored on a fielder’s choice. Other than Freese’s double, the Pirates managed only two singles off Wacha before he departed for a pinch hitter after five innings.
The Pirates meanwhile got scoreless innings out of two of their young relievers, Edgar Santana and Dovydas Neverauskas, and then took the lead in the bottom of the seventh. A one-out double by Elias Diaz and a single by Jordy Mercer put runners at the corners. Pinch hitter John Jaso showed the young guys how to play the game, hitting a double play ball to short, but Paul DeJong, instead of flipping to second, lobbed the ball into right field. That brought in the go-ahead run and left runners at second and third with one out, but Adam Frazier and Marte stranded them. The Pirates finished with just five hits in the game.
Things stayed that way until the top of the ninth. George Kontos pitched a scoreless eighth, but Rivero, apparently out of practice in save situations, couldn’t hold on. A leadoff double, then two one-out singles tied the game and left runners at the corners. A grounder that Jordy Mercer booted then put the Cards ahead, 4-3.
And to top it all off, Juan Nicasio blew away the Pirates’ clown show of an offense over the last two innings, retiring six straight on just 17 pitches.