Pirates workhorse Nova faces Cubs

CHICAGO -- Pittsburgh's Ivan Nova has a career milestone in sight as the Pirates wrap up a three-game series with the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday.

The Pirates right-hander needs just five innings to surpass his single-season high of 170 1/3 innings set with the New York Yankees in 2012. He also will attempt to prevent the Cubs from completing a series sweep.

Nova's innings total could go a whole lot higher with the possibility of as many as six more starts before the regular season concludes on Oct. 1.

"He's made 38 starts since he's been here, just a little over a year," Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle on Tuesday said. "The steadfastness, the reliability, the dependability of taking the ball have been huge. He models what you want to see out of a top guy in your rotation.

"The other four days he also pours into what he needs to do to prepare to be ready to pitch on that game day. And the insight that he's shared with these young starters moving forward has been very valuable."

Nova (11-11, 3.97 ERA) makes his 27th start of the season -- one shy from matching a career high set in 2012 -- when he goes against Chicago left-hander Jose Quintana (4-3, 4.50 ERA with the Cubs).

The 30-year-old Nova is now in his eighth big league season. He spent most of his career with the Yankees, and he began last season working in relief before he was acquired by the Pirates on Aug. 1, 2016.

Nova ranks ninth in the National League in inning pitched (165 2/3). He went 9-6 with a 3.21 ERA in 18 starts prior to the All-Star break. He is 2-5 with a 6.00 ERA since the break and winless in his past five road starts since a victory at Wrigley Field on July 8.

Nova owns a 2-0 record and a 2.94 ERA in three career starts against Chicago. He allowed two home runs in a 4-3 win over the Cubs and Jake Arrieta on June 17 at PNC Park. He then beat Arrieta again on July 8, a 4-2 decision.

The struggling Quintana makes his ninth start with the Cubs and 27th of the season.

In his most recent start on Friday at Philadelphia, he allowed six runs on nine hits over five innings as the Cubs fell 7-1. All six runs came in the first two innings. Quintana had allowed six earned runs in his previous three starts combined.

"Physically, he's fine, and his stuff is good," manager Joe Maddon said after the loss to the Phillies. "It's more execution and location."

Counting his time with the Chicago White Sox before a mid-July trade, Quintana is 8-11 with a 4.49 ERA this year.

He has made just one career start against the Pirates, allowing three runs in six innings on June 16, 2015, in a 3-0 loss while with the White Sox.

The Pirates will look for offensive improvement Wednesday in the series finale after taking a 6-1 loss Monday and a 4-1 defeat Tuesday. Pittsburgh managed six hits in each of the two games.
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