LOS ANGELES (AP) — Ivan Nova felt fortunate to be pitching in a big ballpark with Pittsburgh’s fielders behind him.
Andrew McCutchen and Jordy Mercer homered to lead Nova and the Pirates past the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-1 on Friday night.
“The key to this game was our defense,” said Nova, recently acquired from the Yankees. “It was not one of the best games that I’ve pitched. There were too many hits and it’s amazing they only had one run.”
Handed a three-run lead before he threw a pitch, Nova (2-0) has won both starts for the Pirates since they obtained him from New York at the Aug. 1 trade deadline. The right-hander scattered nine hits over 5 1/3 innings in his first outing against the Dodgers and improved to 9-6 overall this season.
“They’re aggressive hitters and some of the balls they hit would have been out of an American League ballpark,” Nova said.
Los Angeles remained one game behind the first-place Giants in the NL West. San Francisco lost 5-2 to Baltimore.
Pittsburgh opened a six-game West Coast swing and moved within a game of Miami for the second NL wild card.
Nova twice struck out opposing pitcher Ross Stripling to end a rally. The new Pirates starter was replaced by Antonio Bastardo, who got the final two outs in the sixth. Felipe Rivero, Neftali Feliz, Juan Nicasio and Tony Watson followed and shut down the Dodgers.
Watson came on with runners at the corners and retired Corey Seager for his fifth save.
Dating to June 23, the Pirates’ bullpen has posted the lowest ERA (2.13) and best winning percentage 11-2 (.846) of any major league team.
“Everyone in the bullpen accepts their roles and pulls for one another,” Bastardo said. “It gives us confidence and we’re winning games.”
Stripling (3-4) started in place of Rich Hill, who remained on the disabled list with a middle finger blister on his pitching hand. After a rough first inning, Stripling retired 17 of 19 hitters but gave up five runs, including solo homers to McCutchen and Mercer.
“Those were probably the two worst pitches I made all night,” Stripling said. “They definitely punished me for them.”
McCutchen also made an outstanding, over-the-shoulder catch near the warning track in left-center in the second inning to take an extra-base hit away from Yasmani Grandal.
“McCutchen had a fantastic game. I’m going to keep running him out there,” Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said.
Los Angeles outfielder Josh Reddick robbed Josh Harrison of a home run when he reached over the low right-field wall to make a grab.
Pittsburgh, which had lost eight of 10 road games, extended its recent dominance of the Dodgers. The Pirates have beaten Los Angeles in four of five games this season and improved their record to 14-4 against the Dodgers since the beginning of the 2014 season.
Pittsburgh jumped on Stripling for four hits and three runs in the first. McCutchen and David Freese stroked RBI singles, and Mercer’s RBI fielder’s choice made it 3-0.
Howie Kendrick’s two-out RBI single in the second cut the lead to 3-1. Kendrick finished with three hits.
McCutchen continued his torrid hitting at Dodger Stadium with a third-inning solo shot, his 16th of the season. In his last seven games at Dodger Stadium, the slugger is 8 for 16 with four doubles and two home runs.
“I love Dodger Stadium and LA. It’s Paradise, and the weather is always great,” McCutchen said. “When we come out here, I seem to get more down time and I’m more relaxed.”
Mercer led off the seventh with his seventh homer of the season, upping Pittsburgh’s lead to 5-1.
Pirates: Pittsburgh C Francisco Cervelli is day to day after leaving Wednesday’s game after four innings with left wrist discomfort. … C Chris Stewart, on the DL since July 2 with left knee discomfort, is expected to begin a rehab assignment Friday with Double-A Altoona.
Dodgers: LHP Clayton Kershaw, on the 60-day DL with a mild disk herniation, is scheduled to play catch Saturday. No target date has been set for his return. … RHP Joe Blanton was reinstated from the bereavement list, and the Dodgers optioned LHP Luis Avilan to Triple-A Oklahoma City. … The Dodgers plan to activate LHP Brett Anderson (herniated disk surgery) off the DL in time to start Sunday’s series finale.
Dodgers 2B Chase Utley has 409 plate appearances this season without grounding into a double play, the most of any big leaguer. According to STATS, only one Dodgers player has completed an entire season with more plate appearances and zero GIDPs (current manager Dave Roberts in 2003, with 440 plate appearances).
Pirates: RHP Gerrit Cole (7-7) pitches Saturday. His last time out, Cole gave up four hits and four runs in 5 2/3 innings and lost 7-3 to the Reds. He is 3-0 against the Dodgers in four career starts.
Dodgers: RHP Brandon McCarthy (2-2) felt healthy during workouts this week and is expected to pitch Saturday. In his last outing, McCarthy went 3 2/3 innings, gave up two runs and walked five against Boston.