Chris Archer shined in his best start as a Pirate thus far, going seven innings of one run ball in a 2-1 win over the Royals, completing the three game sweep.
While allowing only one run was the highlight on the scorecard, Archer felt going seven innings was the most important part of his night. It was the first time he had gone seven innings in a start since May 12.
“The one thing I hang my hat on is marking starts and pitching deep into ballgames,” Archer said. “So [I’m] giving up way more runs than I wanted to this year, but the thing that frustrates me the most is my average innings [per start]. It has to be the lowest of my career.”
Archer made at least 33 starts and pitched over 200 innings every season from 2015-2017, but that streak will come to a close in 2018, due in large part to a DL stint in June. As for the average length for his starts, he is right, averaging just 5.5 innings pitched per outing- the lowest since he became a full-time major leaguer in 2013.
But Archer showed the efficiency the Pirates preach to their starters Wednesday, throwing 16 first pitch strikes to his 25 batters faced and retiring seven on three pitches or fewer.
He also had a five pitch mix going, getting a whiff and called strike on four different types of pitches.
Archer's pitches tonight. (Number of pitches/whiffs/called strikes):— Alex Stumpf (@AlexJStumpf) September 20, 2018
“It’s a nice trifecta to put together the last four innings,” Clint Hurdle said, referring to Archer’s fastball, slider and changeup.
There was also a nice trifecta of defensive plays behind him. Pablo Reyes made a diving catch in right to open the third inning. In the fourth, Adam Frazier’s fancy footwork resulted in a 4-3 double-play, and Francisco Cervelli ended the fifth by catching Merrifield trying to steal third.
“That was pretty much the difference in the game,” Archer said. “It allowed me to stay in a few hitters longer and get a couple more outs than I probably would have.”
His one blemish on the night was a third inning home run to Adalberto Mondesi. Besides that, he struck out seven, walked one, allowed six hits and induced a pair of ground ball double-plays.
Colin Moran got the Pirates on the board in the second when he lifted a sacrifice fly to left, plating Corey Dickerson. Frazier broke a 1-1 tie in the fifth with a solo shot to right-center field.
Richard Rodriguez worked around a Kevin Newman error to post a scoreless eighth, and Felipe Vazquez bounced back from his blown save Tuesday with a hitless ninth to end the game and record his 35th save of the season.
The Pirates announced Wednesday that Chad Kuhl underwent elbow surgery Wednesday, but did not go into further detail. Kuhl was throwing off a mound a few weeks ago, but a setback is resulting in a surgery they had tried to avoid. Kuhl has been on the disabled list since June 29.
Thursday is the Pirates’ last off-day of the season. The Brewers will be coming to town Friday, starting with Jhoulys Chacin (14-8, 3.54) in game one. Ivan Nova (9-9, 4.07) will go for the Bucs, with first pitch coming at 7:05 p.m..
1. Dating back to last season, the Pirates have won 12 straight home games in September.
2. The Pirates’ 15-5 interleague record is the best in the NL.
3. Reyes legged out an infield single in the fourth inning. It’s the eighth infield hit they had during their series with the Royals and their 143rd on the season. The only team with more infield hits are the Chicago Cubs (152).