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Ivan Nova leaves with calf discomfort in Pirates loss

Rob Biertempfel
| Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017, 6:08 p.m.

CINCINNATI — Ivan Nova got out of bed Saturday morning in a good mood.

"I woke up feeling like today was the day I could get back on track," Nova said. "I left the hotel room with a positive mind set."

When he got to Great American Ball Park, the Pirates right-hander altered his usual pregame routine.

"I used to come here and focus, focus, focus," Nova said. "This time, I tried to relax a little bit, played some (card) games with the guys and got ready for game time."

For six innings, Nova was nearly perfect against the Cincinnati Reds.

"I decided to have fun today and enjoy the game," Nova said.

That all came to an abrupt, disappointing finish in the seventh.

Nova served up a go-ahead home run, then left the game due to right calf discomfort. The Reds edged the Pirates, 2-1.

After the game, Nova said his injury is minor. He does not expect it will prevent him from making his next start Friday against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Nova (11-14) has not won a decision since Aug. 20 against the St. Louis Cardinals. In his 11 starts since the All-Star break, the Pirates have scored a total of 35 runs.

"(During) some tough times like I've been going through, it's easy to say, 'Don't think about it,' " Nova said. "But, in the back of your mind, you think about it."

Over the first six innings, Nova held the Reds to one hit and struck out six. The right-hander threw just 63 pitches.

The lone hit in that span was Joey Votto's two-out single in the fourth. Catcher Elias Diaz picked Votto off first base.

"A really sharp play," manager Clint Hurdle said. "We've done more back-picks this year at first and second base than ever before. He's a guy who's able to do it."

Things came apart for Nova in the seventh. Ahead 0-2 against leadoff batter Jesse Winker, Nova fired a 93 mph fastball up and on the inside corner. Winker tomahawked it into the right-field seats for his sixth home run.

Zack Cozart followed with a double off the wall in left-center. With one out, Eugenio Suarez walked.

Nova paused on the mound and motioned for Diaz. After a minute or so, Nova made a slow walk to the dugout with athletic trainer Todd Tomczyk.

"I was getting tight a little bit, so I decided to call my catcher and let my manager and trainer know," Nova said.

Dan Runzler replaced Nova and gave up Scooter Gennett's RBI single, which gave the Reds a 2-0 lead.

Reds left-hander Sal Romano (5-6), a 24-year-old rookie, scattered five hits over eight innings. He struck out six and let only one runner reach second base.

The Pirates made Romano work in the first inning. He threw 25 pitches against four batters — including 11 in an epic at-bat by leadoff man Adam Frazier, who ended up tapping a comebacker.

"I got into a good, good rhythm after that first batter of the game," Romano said. "I had a good groove."

Romano cruised to his third victory in his past four decisions.

"He controlled the strike zone and threw only 23 balls in eight innings," Hurdle said. "I don't think he ever threw three fastballs in a row. Our challenge was getting a few good at-bats in a row."

Andrew McCutchen hit a solo homer in the ninth off Kevin Shackelford.

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

Pirates starting pitcher Ivan Nova throws in the first inning against the Reds on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017, in Cincinnati.
Pirates starting pitcher Ivan Nova throws in the first inning against the Reds on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017, in Cincinnati.
Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Ivan Nova (46) is taken out of a baseball game by manager Clint Hurdle, center, in the seventh inning against the Cincinnati Reds, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Ivan Nova (46) is taken out of a baseball game by manager Clint Hurdle, center, in the seventh inning against the Cincinnati Reds, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
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