PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates lost starting pitcher Chris Archer after the first inning to a potential right shoulder injury, but they got a stellar bullpen performance and a late rally to beat the Washington Nationals, 4-1, on Tuesday at PNC Park.
Archer completed his first inning by striking out Juan Soto and Asdrúbal Cabrera with two men on base, but he paused after his fifth warmup throw before the second inning. Archer and catcher Jacob Stallings called trainer Bryan Housand over, then Archer was removed from the game following a short conversation.
Archer was placed on the injured list with shoulder inflammation on Wednesday.
“Obviously, it was fine the first inning the way he threw the ball and cut them up, and then something just reacted wrong in his warmups,” Bucs manager Clint Hurdle said. “His warmups were all out of whack. You kind of think, ‘That’s different.’ He knew that it was way too different.”
The Pirates’ marquee addition at the 2018 Trade Deadline, Archer has had his worst statistical season in the Majors. His 5.19 ERA is a career high and his walk rate has soared from 7.7% in 2018 to over 10% this year.
The Bucs are already dealing with another major absence in their starting rotation. Jameson Taillon has not pitched since May 1 and will miss the rest of this season and all of 2020 after undergoing a second Tommy John surgery.
Things didn’t look promising with Archer on the shelf early, but Holmes pitched 3 2/3 innings of one-run ball while allowing one hit and four walks to stabilize things. Hurdle called it his best performance of the season.
“I think it was a much-needed outing for our team and for myself, so I was just glad to give our team a chance to win and put rest of the guys in the ‘pen in a good situation,” Holmes said, while attributing his success to a greater reliance on his slider and curveball.
“It felt good to get back out there,” Rodriguez said through an interpreter. “Being able to go out there, standing up for my team. It was awesome.”
Felipe Vázquez followed Rodríguez for another 1 1/3 scoreless innings to complete a shutdown of a Nationals lineup that had scored 62 runs over their previous five games.
But the Pirates still needed an offense spark to erase the one-run deficit after being held in check for seven innings by Nats starter Stephen Strasburg.
Marte followed his heroics at the plate with an impressive catch at the wall the following inning to end the game.
It’s been a frustrating stretch for the Bucs’ hitters, who had combined to score just eight runs over the team’s previous five games. Even though Marte has been one of the team’s most consistent performers, he’s felt the pressure to get the offense going.
“We try to support the pitcher,” Marte said. "Sometimes, they’ve got strong innings -- six, seven innings -- and we’re doing nothing. It just feels bad because we see that and we’re not supporting.”
After an early exit from Archer, an exhausted bullpen and an offense seemingly stuck in low gear, Pittsburgh's ability to gut out a win might have been surprising to some, but not to Hurdle.
“The vibe doesn’t match the record,” he said. “The effort and the energy don’t match the record. We know that. You don’t win games on vibe and you don’t win games on effort. You win games with results. We got the right results tonight … that team has got no quit in them. They’re going to fight, they’re going to play."