|Pirates, Phillies try to continue encouraging starts|
Pennsylvania's pair of big league teams both have new-look rosters in 2018. They've been working this season for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Philadelphia Phillies.
The Pirates and Phillies, who finished fourth and fifth, respectively, in their divisions last season, have started on the right foot in 2018. They'll meet for the second contest of a four-game set at Citizens Bank Park on Friday night.
The Phillies (11-7) took the first game of the series 7-0 on Thursday, improving to 6-1 at home under first-year manager Gabe Kapler. The Pirates (12-7), meanwhile, enter the weekend atop the National League Central despite losing three of their last four games.
"This Philly team went through a number of changes in the offseason. We went through a number of changes in the offseason," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "Both teams are off to a representative start. They're exciting, they're young, they have some skills, they got some experienced players along helping the way. I think it's good for everybody."
The Pirates average 5.2 runs per game this season, but they've been shut out in two of their last three games. Pittsburgh will see second-year right-hander Ben Lively on Friday.
Lively (0-1, 5.87 ERA) had his shortest of three 2018 starts his last time out. He went four innings against the Rays, allowing three runs on seven hits Sunday in a 10-4 victory for the Phillies. The 26-year-old went 5 2/3 innings in each of his first two starts.
"I could have performed better but I'm going to be smiling today because we got the win," Lively told MLB.com after his last outing.
Lively has faced the Pirates once in his career, giving up four runs (two earned) on five hits and a walk last July.
Ivan Nova will be making his fifth start of the season for the Pirates. The right-hander has looked sharp in his previous two outings.
Nova (2-1, 4.88 ERA) has pitched into the seventh inning and picked up wins in his last two starts, and has 15 strikeouts with no walks over that span. He struck out nine while giving up three runs on six hits against the Marlins on Sunday.
"I just stayed focused," Nova told MLB.com after the start. "The curveball is something I've been working on. I have confidence in it now, so I'm going to keep using it. The fastball is something I wasn't doing last year. I've put that in play, and it's working really good."
Nova has had success against Philadelphia during his nine seasons in the majors. He is 2-1 with a 4.77 ERA and 1.08 WHIP against the Phillies in four starts.
The Phillies knocked out Pirates right-hander Jameson Taillon in the second inning of Thursday's series opener. Rhys Hoskins hit his third home run of the season in the second and is hitting .327 with an 1.105 OPS this season, and enters Friday's game on a six-game hitting streak.
Cory Dickerson leads Pirates regulars with a .313 average but is 1-for-11 in his last three games.