MILWAUKEE — The Pittsburgh Pirates are red hot heading to Chicago. But their postseason aspirations could hinge on medical examinations off the field over the coming days.
Ivan Nova threw six sharp innings before leaving early because of a hurting left hamstring and the Pirates hit three solo homers to rally past the Milwaukee Brewers 3-1 on Sunday for their eighth straight road victory.
“We’re going to leave here in a good place but we’ve got to show up in Chicago,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “I don’t think you could ask for much more here at the end of August. We get to play meaningful games. It should be fun.”
Pittsburgh is in the thick of the NL Wild Card race, but Nova’s injury is the latest issue in a road that gets much tougher for the Pirates.
“I was trying not to think about it,” said Nova, who was pulled as a precaution. “It was my first time experiencing something like that. I decided to tell the manager.”
Ace Gerrit Cole will not start Monday, instead heading to get an outside opinion on his ailing right elbow and missing at least one scheduled start.
“We will talk more about Gerrit and his situation when he comes back from the doctor,” general manager Neal Huntington said.
John Jaso and Gregory Polanco each homered in the sixth off Brewers starter Chase Anderson (7-11) to complete Pittsburgh’s first sweep at Miller Park since 2004. Starling Marte added a solo shot in the eighth.
Nova (4-0) retired 10 of his final 11 batters after allowing Jonathan Villar’s solo homer in the third. He scattered three hits and struck out four before being pinch hit for in the seventh. Tony Watson converted his 10th save in 13 opportunities.
Nova is pitching like a staff ace so far in Pittsburgh before he hits free agency this winter. He’s struck out 22 and walked just four in 31 1-3 innings with a 2.87 ERA over his first five starts since being acquired at the trade deadline from the Yankees.
“It’d be pretty silly for the manager to push him out there for one more inning and he blows his hamstring,” Hurdle said. “We were very pleased with that effort.”
Anderson again failed to get out of the sixth inning for Milwaukee – for the 11th time in his last 12 starts.
He worked his way out of a bases loaded jam with one out in the fourth, but grooved a pair of pitches in the sixth and was pulled after Polanco’s shot put Pittsburgh ahead for good.
“The command was there for me today for the most part, just got away from me in the sixth inning,” Anderson said.
Pirates 3B Adam Frazier was optioned to Single-A Bristol before the game and RHP A.J. Schugel was recalled. Frazier started at third base in Saturday’s 9-6 win.
Pirates: With Cole out, Hurdle says his rotation plan in Chicago will be Steven Brault on Monday followed by Chad Kuhl and Ryan Vogelsong.
Brewers: Brewers RHP Junior Guerra (right elbow) is expected to return to the rotation at some point after Thursday’s day off. He threw 3 1-3 scoreless innings in his previous rehab start at Triple-A Colorado Springs.
Pirates: Brault (0-1, 3.60 ERA) will be recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis. The left-hander will make his third career start.
Brewers: Zach Davies (10-6, 4.06) takes the hill in the opener of a series against St. Louis.