Nova, Polanco lead Pirates to 7-1 victory over Astros

Cole is 0-2 with a 6.48 ERA in his last three starts and will be facing the Astros for the first time in his four-year career. Matt Joyce and Andrew McCutchen hit consecutive RBI doubles, then Polanco and Bell drove in runs with singles.

Musgrove readily admits he is experiencing a learning curve. "Up here, guys don't miss pitches as much".

Nova (3-0) used 98 pitches to cruise through his fourth career complete game.

Nova (10-6) struck out six, walked one and threw 69 of his 98 pitches for strikes while improving to 3-0 in four starts since being acquired from the New York Yankees in an August 1 trade.

"I mentioned to our offensive coordinator Jeff Branson that I liked the way he scripted his first 20 plays", manager Clint Hurdle said, using an appropriate football reference. "We came and hit balls where they were pitched and took advantage of a sinkerballer who wasn't getting the ball down". "He threw a lot of really good sinkers against a very good-hitting team with a lot of right-handed hitters and he locked them up with the ball away". The stagnant offense watched the top three hitters go 0-for-12 with five strikeouts on Monday as the Pirates fell 3 1/2 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals for the second NL wild card.

The Astros averaged 8.8 runs during a four-game winning streak before going silent against Nova but have already clinched a winning road trip through Baltimore and Pittsburgh.

"David has been a consummate professional while producing offensively and playing solid defense atboth third and first base to help this team win games", said Pirates general manager Neal Huntington.

Pittsburgh dropped its fourth straight game with a 3-1 setback in Monday's series opener and lost the last three despite the pitching staff allowing three runs in each. Three of those 12 hits were home runs by the Orioles, who had six home runs on the night.

Polanco had three of the Pirates' 11 hits while driving in three runs and scoring three times. 3B Luis Valbuena (strained right hamstring) will be examined by doctors Wednesday to determine whether he needs season-ending surgery. He had a chance for a "Maddux" but gave up back-to-back doubles to start the ninth.

Saunders hit his 21st homer of the season in the eighth against A.J. Achter. 3B/OF Yulieski Gurriel (right hamstring tightness) did not start for a second straight game after making his major league debut Sunday but is expected to be in the lineup Wednesday.

Houston still as a chance to win the series with an early 11:35 CT start Wednesday morning. The former Yankee has looked like a shrewd pick-up by the Pirates, as he's put up a 3.20 ERA and 1.105 WHIP over four starts with his new club.

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