Ivan Nova made his Pittsburgh Pirates debut against the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday night. In his start, Nova provided the Pirate rotation with a much needed boost.
When the Pittsburgh Pirates acquired pitcher Ivan Nova from the New York Yankees shortly before the 4pm August 1st trade deadline many people, myself included, were left scratching their heads. While the Pirates’ starting rotation definitely needs a boost, Ivan Nova did not appear to be a pitcher capable of providing said boost. However, in his Pirate debut against the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday night Ivan Nova did indeed provide the Pirates’ rotation a boost.
Entering Saturday night’s start, Ivan Nova’s numbers on the season were not pretty. In 97 1/3 innings pitched for the Yankees he was averaging 6.93 K/9, 2.31 BB/9, an alarming 1.76 HR/9, and he had a 1.36 WHIP. This all resulted in Nova having a 4.90 ERA, 5.09 FIP, and having been moved to the bullpen for a stretch of the season.
When looking at Ivan Nova’s numbers what plagued him in New York is obvious, the home run ball. The 19 home runs he allowed as a Yankee ranked in the top five in all of Major League Baseball in home runs allowed, and that is one category you never want to be in the top five in. As a Yankee, Ivan Nova did have a xFIP of 4.02 so is reason to believe he will pitch better moving forward.
While Ivan Nova continued to struggle with the home run ball in his first start as a Pirate, he allowed two to Brandon Phillips, they were both solo home runs and this helped to limit damage. In the end Nova wound up pitching seven full innings in his Pirate debut, and seven full innings is a rarity from Pittsburgh Pirate starting pitchers these days.
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In those seven innings pitched Ivan Nova allowed three runs on six hits, zero walks, and he struck out five. Nova did an excellent job of getting outs when he needed them on Saturday night. Also, he got some help from the Pirates playing strong defense behind him.
In the top of the second inning the Reds on runners on the corners and just one out with pitcher Homer Bailey at the plate. Bailey laid down a bunt that turned into an inning ending 2-6-3 double play, thanks in large part to a phenomenal play by catcher Francisco Cervelli. Then in the top of the sixth inning with a man on first and one out, Ivan Nova got Joey Votto to pull a two-seamed fastball on the inside corner on the ground. Votto pulling this pitcher on the ground would result in a 6-4-3 inning end double play.
Ivan Nova’s outing on Saturday night also included a stretch where he retired ten consecutive batters. Nova put the Reds down in order in the third, fourth, and fifth innings. He then retired their lead off man in the sixth inning, before allowing a one out single to Zack Cozart. However, as I said above, Nova then got Joey Votto to hit into an inning ending double play to clean that up.
Ivan Nova’s first start as a Pittsburgh Pirate could not have gone much better. He got outs when he needed them, he did not walk a batter, he went deep into the game, and he held the Reds to just three runs. Without a doubt Nova provided the Pirates’ rotation with a much needed boost on Saturday night. Hopefully, he can continue to pitch well moving forward and his 3.99 xFIP shows there is reason to be optimistic. Even if it is just cautious optimism.