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Nova faces former team for first time when Pirates meet Yankees

PITTSBURGH -- One of the bright spots of the 2016 season for the Pittsburgh Pirates was the acquisition of starting pitcher Ivan Nova.

Nova came over from the New York Yankees in exchange for two minor leaguers on Aug. 1 and had an immediate career renaissance with the Pirates.

Nova had made 118 starts with the Yankees but was having trouble sticking in the rotation with a 5.07 ERA at the time of the trade.

With the Pirates, he posted a 3.06 ERA in 11 starts. He gave up fewer home runs, fewer walks and in general seemed to much more closely resemble the pitcher he had been early in his career, when he won 16 games for the Yankees in 2011.

This past offseason, Nova was a free agent but chose to return to Pittsburgh with a three-year contract. He made it clear that his comfort level in Pittsburgh was the primary factor, and particularly his relationship with catcher Francisco Cervelli, who also came to the Pirates from the Yankees.

On Sunday, Nova (1-2, 2.25 ERA) will face his former team for the first time, as the Pirates and Yankees complete their three-game interleague series at PNC Park.

So far this season, Nova has been even better than he was at the end of 2016, despite his losing record. In 20 innings, he has eight strikeouts and no walks.

"He's pitched extremely well. He's fit in extremely well and he's mentored extremely well," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said, referencing the fact that Nova, at 30, is the elder statesman of the Pirates' starting rotation.

Going against Nova will be Jordan Montgomery, one of the young Yankees starters that made him expendable.

Montgomery (1-0, 4.22 ERA) will be making his third career after a quick rise through the Yankees' system. A fourth-round pick in 2014 out of South Carolina, he made in through his 57-game minor-league career without allowing more than four runs in a start. He was signed to a major-league contract in April and has continued that streak into the majors.

In his last start, he went six scoreless before giving up three runs in the seventh against the Chicago White Sox, but he did enough to come away with his first major-league win.

"That (the first win) sounds good," Montgomery said afterward to the New York Post. "Hopefully, it will be the first of many."

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