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The Thursday Takeaway

Ivan Nova has five complete games to his name as a member of the Pirates, including three last season and two this season. His quest for a third complete game of 2017 took a weird turn Thursday afternoon in Atlanta. Nova was two outs away from throwing his third complete game of the season, but as his start progressed it transformed from being a masterpiece of a performance to being a testament to his ability to grind his way through tough situations.

Nova managed to deftly maneuver his way through Atlanta’s lineup for six innings without much of a problem. He also managed to do this while not exactly blowing the doors off of Atlanta’s offense with his stuff. He only had one strikeout throughout his entire attempt at a complete game, and it came all the way back in the first inning when the coffee was still fresh in everybody’s system.

The “trouble” for Nova began in the seventh inning, which is when he gave up his first run of the day. He gave up 10 hits for the entire day, with six of those coming from the seventh inning on, and he eventually had four runs to his name. Fortunately, the Pirates made Bartolo Colon’s day miserable and gave Nova plenty of breathing room with a five-run second inning.

That frame was marked by some sub par defense on Atlanta’s part and was capped off by a three-run dinger from Adam Frazier that broke the game open.

As a result, Nova finished the day with 8 1/3 innings under his belt, with four earned runs, a walk, and those 10 hits. It’s still impressive that he got as close as he did to picking up another complete game. It wouldn’t have been the most memorable one so far, but it’s still clear evidence that Nova’s move to Pittsburgh was the best thing that could’ve happened to him.

Quick Hits

It’s been a long week for the Phillies. After they lost the weekend Keystone State battle with the Pirates, the red-hot Rockies came to town for a four-game series and things went about as badly for Philadelphia as possible. The Phillies only led at one point during the entire four-game series, but it came at the most important time in the final game of the series—in the bottom of the 11th inning for a walk-off victory.

Tommy Joseph brought in the game-winning run and he also hit the solo homer that tied the game. He was all over the place like pollen on your car during a spring day.

The happiest person in Philadelphia had to have been Odubel Herrera, since the Phillies managed to pick up the victory despite his ghastly day at the plate. Herrera’s been scuffling this season (he’s currently batting .226/.275/.339) and he reached the bottom of the valley on Thursday while wearing a platinum sombrero.

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Speaking of scuffling, that’s exactly what the entire Mariners' lineup was doing during their most recent five-game losing streak. They only scored four runs during that span, which meant their performance on Thursday against the Nationals basically amounted to an offensive explosion. They broke the losing streak and scored a whopping four runs in one game in the process, with three of those runs coming off the bat of Nelson Cruz.

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Back in his first start of the season against the Diamondbacks, Jeff Samardzija picked up plenty of strikeouts and didn’t allow many walks, but still got tagged for three homers and gave up six runs. He must have been having deja vu on Thursday, because he struck out eight and only walked one, but gave up three dingers and was once again on the losing side of things—this time, against the Cubs.

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Arizona is off to an impressive start, and part of that has to do with being one of the top power-hitting clubs in the National League. So naturally, the hitter with a .098 ISO who went into Thursday’s game with a TAv of .204 and zero homers hit his first homer of the season. Ladies and gentlemen, here’s Gregor Blanco. Cherish this GIF.

Defensive Play of the Day

Wednesday may have been Bartolo Colon’s 44th birthday, but Thursday was definitely a day to forget for Big Sexy. The Pirates rocked him on the mound, and then he couldn’t even catch a break when he miraculously made solid contact at the plate. Josh Harrison made a diving catch to rob us all of the always-precious moment of Colon reaching base.

What to Watch on Friday

The Cubs are rolling into Los Angeles to face off with the Dodgers this weekend, and tonight’s pitching matchup should be interesting. While Jake Arrieta is still trying to figure things out this season, it appears that Alex Wood is starting to come into his own. Wood enters Friday’s start with a 2.63 DRA and an 81 cFIP, and he’s already worth 1.3 WARP after finishing 2016 with 1.4 WARP.

Meanwhile, if you want an ongoing saga to follow for the entire day, then the White Sox and Tigers are going to deliver it to you. They’re scheduled for a straight doubleheader in an effort to make up a game from all the way back in early April. The pitching matchups aren’t exactly a pair that you’d stick up on the marquee, but doubleheaders are always fun to watch so you may as well keep an eye on the action on the South Side of Chicago.