Pirates’ Nova hopes to stay super as May begins

CINCINNATI — Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander Ivan Nova probably didn’t want April to end, and who could blame him?

Nova, who had more complete games (2) than walks (1) in April, was named National League pitcher of the month after posting a 1.50 ERA, with six earned runs allowed and 22 strikeouts in 36 innings.

“I’m relaxed and being confident and going out and having fun, ” Nova said. “I’m not pitching like I don’t want to walk anybody. I’m going to attack hitters. “

Nova begins May against the Cincinnati Reds (13-14) on Thursday afternoon in the finale of a four-game set at Great American Ball Park. The Pirates (12-15) are trying to earn a split in the series after falling to Cincinnati 7-2 on Wednesday.

It’s the second such honor for Nova, who was named American League pitcher of the month for August 2013 while a member of the New York Yankees.

Gerrit Cole was the last Pirates pitcher to be named NL pitcher of the month in April 2015.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle was most impressed with Nova’s control and overall command through April.

“He’s got more complete games than walks — that is amazing,” Hurdle said. “He doesn’t walk anybody. You peal back layers and go back on this guy’s timeline; this hasn’t been in his pocket the whole time he’s pitched. “

In six career starts against Cincinnati, Nova is 3-3 with a 3.92 ERA. He last faced the Reds on April 12, a 9-3 Pirates loss in which he allowed three runs and four hits in six innings. Nova is coming off a three-hit shutout at Miami on Saturday.

“He’s in complete trust of his stuff on the mound now,” Hurdle said. “It’s not always a 3-2 fastball. Now it can be a 3-2 sinker, it can be a 3-2 hook, it can be a 3-2 change.

“Those aren’t concerns anymore about walking somebody. That’s not in his mind-set out there. He’s out there to throw strikes and make contact.”

On having a pitcher who can be counted on to go deep in starts, Hurdle said he’s like a kid with a new toy.

“I’ve never had this blessing before,” Hurdle said. “We’ll let him pitch. He’s been our best seventh-inning guy. The other night, the finish to the eighth and ninth inning was probably as impressive as anything he did in the game. So yeah, let him pitch. I’m not trying to overcook that one at all.”

Right-hander Tim Adleman will make his fourth appearance and third start of the season for the Reds on Thursday. Adleman faced the Bucs twice last year with no decisions, allowing four earned runs and 10 hits over 12 innings.

Adleman made his major league debut against the Pirates on May 1, 2016, and was charged with only two runs over six innings. He left with a 3-1 lead and was in line for his first career victory before falling victim to a blown save in 6-5, 11-inning Reds win.

Cincinnati is 5-1 this season against the Pirates and assured of at least a split. But, they want more.

“We want to win the series against them,” Reds third baseman Eugenio Suarez said.