Pirates' Nova goes against Phillies' Nola (Jul 03, 2017)

BY AP • July 3, 2017

PHILADELPHIA -- The Pittsburgh Pirates start a four-game series against their Keystone State foes, the Philadelphia Phillies, on Monday night in Philadelphia.

Both teams enter looking for a burst before the All-Star break after dropping weekend sets.

The Pirates will send right-hander Ivan Nova to the mound in the opener. Nova (8-5, 3.08 ERA) has been one of Pittsburgh's most consistent starters this season, and he enters the Monday start with a 3.08 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in 16 outings.

Nova earned wins in three of his four decisions in June, including his start against the Rays last Wednesday. Nova lasted only five innings -- his shortest outing of the year -- but held Tampa Bay to two runs on seven hits.

Nova, who is averaging 6.8 innings per start, admitted he did not have his top stuff in his last start.

"Obviously not my best today," Nova said after the game. "One of the guys told me, 'Don't feel bad because you throw five innings because a lot of the time, you go seven or eight and you don't get the win. You got the win today.' (My teammates) always find a way to make me feel good."

Nova is 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA in three career starts against the Phillies. He earned the win in his only previous start against Philadelphia this season, allowing nine hits and three runs in 7 1/3 innings on May 20.

The Pirates (37-45) are off to a 0-2 start in July, but they went 13-13 in June -- the first month they were not below .500 this season. They received a large offensive lift from their 2013 MVP.

Outfielder Andrew McCutchen hit .411 with a 1.193 OPS in 26 games last month after scuffling to a .223 average during the season's first two months. He didn't play Sunday to get a rest, but he is expected to return for the series opener in Philadelphia.

McCutchen and the rest of the Pirates' order will be facing Phillies righty Aaron Nola (5-5, 4.13 ERA). Nola, Philadelphia's first-round draft pick in 2014, also had a sharp June.

The LSU product had a 3.24 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 33 1/3 innings in five starts last month, and he pitched at least seven innings three times. Nola notched a season-best nine strikeouts in his last outing, when he gave up just two runs on five hits and worked around four walks in seven innings against the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday.

"It was great to see Nola pitch well, like we've grown accustomed to. He's been pitching really well," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "His ball-to-strike ratio wasn't the greatest, but he just kept nibbling in the right spots. He really kept us in the game. He set a good pace during that game, like he was attacking the hitters. It was great to see."

Nola has a career record of 0-2 with a 5.73 ERA against the Pirates. He yielded just one run and four hits in seven innings in his only start against Pittsburgh this year on May 21, but he got the loss.

The Phillies (27-53) are just 16-44 since April 27, but Nola won each of his past two starts.

Pittsburgh (37-45) took two of three when the two sides met earlier this season at PNC Park. This week's series marks the last time the two sides will face each other in 2017. The Pirates won the 2016 season series 4-3 and split a four-game series at Citizens Bank Park last September.

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