"We love when he pitches," third baseman David Freese said. "He pumps strikes. He's a quiet guy, for the most part, but he's fiery on the mound."
Nova pitched into the eighth inning for his first win in May, leading the Pirates to a 6-3 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday.
Nova (4-3) allowed three runs and nine hits in 7 1/3 innings for first victory in four starts since April 29, a three-hit shutout of the Marlins at Miami. The NL Pitcher of the Month in April struck out three and walked none.
Nova got 14 of 22 outs on ground balls and went to a three-ball count on just two of the 30 batters he faced. It was his first start at PNC Park since April 23.
"Before the game, I was talking to the guys in the clubhouse and I couldn't remember the last time I pitched here and I had to think about it for a moment," Nova said. "If felt good to be back home, though. It's always a good feeling to take the mound here."
Francisco Cervelli and Adam Frazier hit two-run singles during a four-run sixth inning that extended the Pirates' lead to 6-1. Freese's leadoff home run, his fourth, in the fourth inning broke a 1-1 tie.
Freese's shot down the left-field line barely stayed fair.
"I was kind of wishing it over the fence but it was a good time to get one," he said.
Frazier had three hits and Cervelli and Freeze added two each as the Pirates won for the fifth time in seven games and sent the Phillies to their 16th loss in 20 games. Philadelphia has not won consecutive games since a six-game winning streak from April 20-27.
Vince Velasquez (2-4) gave up five runs and seven hits in 5 1/3 innings with six strikeouts and two walks.
"In the game, it's just a lack of commitment, a lack of concentration, just a lack of everything," Velasquez said. "Geez, even in my golf game, everything is just a lack of everything. I'm just clueless right now. I'm just running like a chicken without a head."
The Phillies cut the lead to 6-3 on an RBI single by Cameron Rupp in the seventh inning and Aaron Altherr's run-scoring double in the eighth that chased Nova. Juan Nicasio got the last two outs in the eighth and Tony Watson pitched a perfect ninth for his ninth save.
Altherr drove in the game's first run with a first-inning groundout and Andrew McCutchen tied it with an RBI single in the third.
The loss dropped the Phillies (15-25) 10 games under .500 just 40 games into the season.
"I'm just remaining optimistic because I think we're better than our record." manager Pete Mackanin said.
Right-hander Jhan Marinez joined the Pirates after being claimed off waivers from Milwaukee on Friday and will be used in middle relief. He had a 5.40 ERA in 15 games for the Brewers before being designated for assignment Monday.
Phillies: LF Daniel Nava (left hamstring tightness) was not in the lineup after leaving after five innings of Friday's 7-2 win over the Pirates.
Pirates: RHP Josh Lindblom was placed on the 10-day DL with discomfort in his left side. Lindblom felt achy when he woke up Saturday morning after pitching 2 1/3 relief innings Friday night.
Phillies RHP Aaron Nola (2-0, 5.40 ERA) is expected to be activated from the DL to start Sunday against RHP Chad Kuhl (1-4, 6.69) in the finale of the three-game series. Nola has been out since April 24 with a lower back strain. Kuhl is winless in seven starts since beating Atlanta on April 8 in his season debut.