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Tigers vs. Pirates Preview: Ivan Nova looks to keep Tigers rolling

After a three-game layoff, the Tigers’ offense laid it on Friday night against the Pirates. Can they keep it up?

Kansas City Royals v Detroit Tigers Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

The Detroit Tigers’ series opening game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on Friday night was a wild one, with the good guys emerging victorious in extra innings 17-13 after scoring 16 runs against the Bucs’ bullpen. Matthew Boyd got bombed out of the game early, but the Tigers’ bats brought the heavy artillery in later for a game that was perfectly on-brand for 2020.

On Saturday afternoon, Iván Nova heads to the mound to face Derek Holland in hopes of clinching the road series win for his team. He will be facing off against his old squad with much the lineup and rotation he anchored having long moved on, though Nova pitched with Trevor Williams, Joe Musgrove, Chad Kuhl and Steven Brault in 2018 — all three currently members of the Pirates’ staff. The veteran right-hander pitched well in Pittsburgh during his time there, going 13-8 with a 2.75 ERA over 31 starts.

Detroit Tigers (6-5) at Pittsburgh Pirates (3-11)

Time/Place: 4:05 pm, PNC Park

SB Nation site: Bucs Dugout

Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network

Probables: LHP Iván Nova (0-0, 4.22 ERA) vs. LHP Derek Holland (0-0, 4.76 ERA)

Game 12 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Nova 10.2 10.90% 8.70% 5.66 -0.1
Holland 11.1 22.70% 11.40% 4 0.3

Derek Holland has been around the block a few times, spending a bulk of his career with the Texas Rangers, where he went 62-50 with a 4.35 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP in 297 total appearances with 224 starts during the heyday in Arlington. He has been up and but mostly down since his time in Texas, and last year was one of the latter, posting a 2-5 record with a 6.08 ERA and a 1.51 WHIP in eight starts between the stints with the San Francisco Giants and the Chicago Cubs in 2019.

So far this season, the 33-year-old lefthander has been steady for the Pirates, posting a 4.76 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP over the course of 11 13 innings in two starts, allowing six runs on six hits with five walks and one home run surrendered. Holland managed 5 23 innings in both of his appearances in 2020, holding the Milwaukee Brewers to just two runs on July 28 to help the Bucs earn the win while his second outing against the Minnesota Twins on August 3 resulted in a loss after giving up four runs. The Tigers’ offense should be able to get a few guys across the plate today against the grizzled veteran pitcher.

Key matchup: Ivan Nova vs. the Pirates’ offense

The Tigers send their own seasoned hurler to the hill in Nova, who has not been entirely impressive but nonetheless effective at eating innings in his two outings so far this year, putting up a 4.22 ERA and a 1.41 WHIP over 10 23 frames, allowing 11 hits, five earned runs and four walks while striking out five. He has reached the fifth inning in both of his starts so far, allowing three and two runs against the Cincinnati Reds and Kansas City Royals, respectively, including two long-balls in the former.

Pittsburgh’s offense currently sits at No. 19 in the league in runs scored per game (4.14), No. 24 in hits (6.93), No. 25 in walks (2.79) and No. 16 in strikeouts (8.64). Clearly, this team is far from a fearsome juggernaut yet they still managed to hang 13 runs on Friday night against the Tigers’ ace starter and revamped bullpen, so there is no need to be complacent. Nova will need to have his A-game on if he is going to keep Detroit in the match long enough for their own offense to pull them through.