In a season that’s already been riddled with Visa issues, P.E.D. suspensions, and subpar production at the plate, it’s surprising that the Pirates actually have a few bright spots after their first month of regular season baseball. At the close of April, the Buccos somehow only sit two games back from the 1st-place Cubs (although that margin will likely widen in due time) in the underperforming NL Central. Their play in the first month certainly wasn’t exactly ideal, but it also wasn’t horrible, either. Of all the major question marks going into the year, the pitching staff was probably the biggest besides probably Andrew McCutchen. And unlike Cutch, the rotation has been a pleasant surprise in 2017. They currently rank tied for 3rd in the majors with 14 quality starts, led by veteran Ivan Nova (5).

Ivan Nova, in particular, has been lights out ever since coming over at the trade deadline last July from the Yankees. This past Saturday, Nova pitched an absolute gem against the Marlins. The 30-year old had himself a “Maddux” recording a complete game shutout in only 95 pitches of work – good enough for his fifth complete game as a Pirate. There’s still a long way to go in the 2017 season, but it’s safe to say Ivan Nova has found a knack for throwing strikes ever since joining the black and gold:

Whether or not this persists is another story, but damn it, this will be fun to watch while it lasts.