Pirates hold off Braves in home opener

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The images were jarring. Snow flurries swirling at PNC Park and Andrew McCutchen jogging out to right field instead of center in Pittsburgh for the first time following an offseason position switch.

Yeah, things got a little weird for the Pirates on Friday.

Not that McCutchen appeared bothered by the flurries or his new spot in front of the 21-foot high Clemente Wall. The five-time All-Star picked up his first three hits of the young season and drove in a run , Ivan Nova put together six solid innings and the Pirates held on late for a 5-4 victory over the Atlanta Braves, their fourth straight victory in a home opener.

“It was cool,” said McCutchen, ordered during the winter to slide from center to right, a move he didn’t exactly agree with but embraced nonetheless. “I don’t know. It’s my ninth year. The outfield is the outfield.”

McCutchen made a sliding grab on a liner by Dansby Swanson to save a run in the fifth then watched second baseman Josh Harrison and shortstop Jordy Mercer team up for a lovely double play in the eighth to put a stop to a late Atlanta rally. Brandon Phillips’ two-run single off Daniel Hudson pulled the Braves within one when Harrison made a diving stop on Adonis Garcia’s chopper up the middle then flipped the ball to a pirouetting Mercer to preserve the lead.

David Freese and Francisco Cervelli went deep off reliever Josh Collmenter leading off the fifth inning. That gave Nova the cushion he would need at PNC Park, where the game time temperature was 37 degrees.

Nova (1-0) permitted just an unearned run over six innings in his first start since signing a three-year deal in the offseason to stay with the Pirates, who acquired him from the New York Yankees last summer. Tony Watson worked the ninth for his first save as Pittsburgh’s offense broke out after mustering just three runs in 21 innings during two losses in Boston.

“That’s what’s fun,” Freese said. “Just seeing the guys whack it around a little bit. It starts with Nova. I played with a lot of professionals. You ask me, he’s a pro in this clubhouse. He showed it today.”

Nova gave up six hits, walked none and struck out four. He coaxed Phillips to hit into a double-play with the bases loaded in the fourth then struck out Phillips with two runners in scoring position in the sixth to improve 4-1 with a 2.13 ERA at PNC Park since coming to Pittsburgh.