Pirates win 3rd straight behind Chris Archer’s latest strong start
Chris Archer still isn’t producing like the top-of-the-rotation starter the Pittsburgh Pirates hoped for when they surrendered a bounty to acquire him late last summer. But at least the Pirates finally are consistently competitive in games the veteran starts.
Archer was solid — if a little inefficient — over five innings, Jose Osuna hit a pinch-hit home run and Adam Frazier ignited a four-run eighth inning in a 6-3 victory over the San Diego Padres on Saturday at PNC Park.
The Pirates have won three consecutive — their first winning streak of that long in more than a month — and five of seven since losing seven in a row.
Perhaps more importantly, they have won four of the past five games Archer has started after losing six straight before that.
“Just relentless pitch execution,” Archer said. “If you can just continue to execute, continue to execute, just be relentless, even with guys on base, the stuff that we have with the guys that we are running out there, we are going to be successful more times than not.”
Although efficiency remains an issue — 85 pitches, only 49 strikes, in five innings — Archer was better than he generally has been in recent weeks. He allowed one run on two hits and three walks (one intentional). Both of those hits went for extra bases, including Manny Machado’s second solo homer in as many days. Archer’s ERA dropped from a season-high 5.85 to 5.56.
“Before the game, my mom said, ‘Just don’t throw a pitch down the middle to Manny Machado,’ ” Archer said. “I guess I should have listened to her.”
Saturday marked just the second time over Archer’s past nine outings that he was charged with fewer than four runs. Manager Clint Hurdle noticed Archer had five three-ball counts and threw less than 50% first-ball strikes, but he relented Archer provided “a good day’s work.”
“The fastball played. The angle to the fastball was better. … The slider was better,” Hurdle said.
Richard Rodriguez pitched a scoreless sixth, but Francisco Liriano surrendered the lead in the seventh, setting the stage for a four-run eighth inning in which a Frazier single scored Starling Marte and Josh Bell.
Elias Diaz followed with a single that drove in Corey Dickerson, and pinch-hitter Jung Ho Kang then drove in Frazier with a sacrifice fly.
Kyle Crick worked around two baserunners in a scoreless seventh, but Felipe Vazquez was called upon after a Machado two-out RBI single off Michael Feliz created a one-out save situation in the ninth.
Vazquez struck out Hunter Renfroe to end it and give him the save in each of the past three Pirates games.
Vazquez has 19 saves for the season, tied for third most in the National League.
A day after driving in the eventual winning run against the Padres with a single, Osuna’s two-run homer in the fifth gave them a 2-1 lead. It was Osuna’s third pinch-hit home run of the season — most in baseball — and fifth of his career.
“It’s something I have been working this year on, on my routine, trying to get ready for each opportunity,” Osuna said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s off the bench or to start the game.”
All three of Osuna’s 2019 pinch hits (in nine at-bats) are homers.
“He’s done a nice job for us,” Hurdle said, “and (pinch hitting) is a hard job to do.”
Rookie Kevin Newman led off the bottom of the first with a single that extended his hitting streak to 12 games, and Jacob Stallings went 2 for 3 for the Pirates.
The Pirates clinched their third consecutive nonlosing series after they won just one of their previous seven series.
“We’ve dealt with a lot of stuff,” Frazier said, “but you’re going to have those stretches at times. It’s been a challenge … to put everything together day-by-day, but we are there to pick each other up. The last couple days, we have just put it all together.”
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .