Ivan Nova threw eight scoreless innings, Felipe Vazquez worked his way out of a ninth-inning jam, and Corey Dickerson hit a walk off home run over the Clemente Wall as the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Detroit Tigers 1-0 to win the three-game series.
After yesterday’s marathon doubleheader, which featured a combined 34 runs scored on 54 hits, fans were treated to a more briskly played game on Thursday afternoon.
With one out in the bottom of the ninth, the game remained scoreless until the contest came to an abrupt end when Dickerson sent a 0-1 fastball from Tigers reliever Alex Wilson into the first row of section 142 beyond the right field fence.
It was the first walk-off home run of Dickerson’s career, but the Pirates right fielder first made sure to credit his starting pitcher.
“We really wanted to get Nova the win, he deserved it,” Dickerson said.
The daytime tilt turned into a pitchers duel as Ivan Nova and Tigers starter Michael Fulmer each twirled masterful gems in a 1-0 Pirates win.
Nova’s day was particularly heartening: a throwback to the halcyon days of Ray Searage and the pitch-to-contact Pirates. The Buccos righty cruised through eight scoreless innings, striking out five and inducing 12 groundball outs.
It’s just like the Pirates drew it up years ago, when their sinker-balling tendencies, combined with tactical defensive shifts, swept the league and helped the Bucs break their decades-long losing streak.
And it’s fitting that Nova, the most recent Searage transformation project and one of the lone bright spots in a pretty rough couple of seasons for the formerly popular pitching guru, is the one who tossed such a quick, precise game.
Nova only needed 93 pitches to work his way through the Tigers lineup three times and gave up six hits and zero walks.
The Pirates righty relied on his defense and expertly tiptoed out of dangerous situations in the rare case that they happened. Leonis Martin led off the game with a triple and was stranded at first after three straight Tigers groundouts.
Sean Rodriguez, playing shortstop, made a fantastic ranging, diving catch in the sixth inning and, when Miguel Cabrera came to bat later in the inning with one out and runners on first and third, played part in turning a crucial 4-6-3 double play to get the Pirates out of a jam.
The replacement shortstop again played a crucial role defensively in the top of the ninth inning. Felipe Vazquez replaced Nova in the ninth and promptly loaded the bases with nobody out. The Pirates got two outs – a 5-2 putout and an infield pop fly – before Rodriguez made a sliding stop on a bouncing ball up the middle and tossed the ball to second to record what would prove to be a pivotal force out.
Unfortunately for Nova, Vazquez was the one who will go down as the pitcher of record. But, with the win, the Pirates claimed the season series with Detroit five games to one. The Bucs have improved their record to 14-11 heading into a three-game divisional series with the St. Louis Cardinals at PNC Park this weekend.