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Archer grinds out first win with Pirates at Coors

Sturdy defense backs right-hander, who took ball feeling ill
Special to MLB.com

DENVER -- It didn't take long for newly acquired pitcher Chris Archer to show his Pirates teammates what a gamer he is.

Archer spent much of Tuesday under the weather and in bed at the hotel, which prompted the Pirates to warm up Richard Rodriguez along with Archer before Wednesday's game against the Rockies at Coors Field. But Archer took the ball and pitched five innings, holding the explosive Rockies lineup to two runs on five hits and two walks en route to a 4-3 victory, his first as a Pirate and ensuring a series win.

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DENVER -- It didn't take long for newly acquired pitcher Chris Archer to show his Pirates teammates what a gamer he is.

Archer spent much of Tuesday under the weather and in bed at the hotel, which prompted the Pirates to warm up Richard Rodriguez along with Archer before Wednesday's game against the Rockies at Coors Field. But Archer took the ball and pitched five innings, holding the explosive Rockies lineup to two runs on five hits and two walks en route to a 4-3 victory, his first as a Pirate and ensuring a series win.

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Archer fared far better in his second start for his new team than in last week's debut in which he lasted 4 1/3 innings against the Cardinals Friday, giving up five runs (three earned) on seven hits and four walks while striking out six. Wednesday, he retired the first eight batters he faced, with Colorado starter German Marquez notching the first hit with a hard liner to left.

"He made some improvements," manager Clint Hurdle said. "This guy is figuring some things out. One thing we've talked about is his last five starts coming into today he's thrown to five different catchers. That's pretty complicated. I don't know if I've ever had a pitcher throw to five different catchers in five starts. He's gritty."

The Bucs got on the scoreboard in the first frame, with Starling Marte hitting a one-out single to left, stealing second, and scoring on Gregory Polanco's double to left. Colin Moran singled with two outs to plate Polanco for the second run.

Video: PIT@COL: Moran lines a 2-out single, plates Polanco

Pittsburgh added a run in the third, when Moran singled to left with one out, advanced to third on an Adam Frazier double to right, and scored on a grounder to second from Josh Bell, who came off the disabled list to start the finale.

Video: PIT@COL: Bell plates Moran on a ground out

Marquez struggled early on the mound, allowing eight hits in the first three innings, but he settled in the middle frames, pitching the first immaculate inning ever at Coors Field in the fourth inning -- striking out the top of the Pirates' order on nine pitches. Marquez ended his day with 10 strikeouts over six innings.

Marquez tosses immaculate inning

"[Marquez] made some pitches," Frazier said. "He gave me some fastballs to hit. I kind of ambushed him there in the first inning and broke my bat, but found a hole. The last at-bat, he changed it up and went with the offspeed, then went to a backfoot slider, then got back to the heater, and I was able to get the barrell to it. He's got good stuff. An easy life fastball."

Conversely, the middle innings were a little rocky for Archer, who gave up three hits and a walk in the fourth, including a two-run homer from David Dahl to pull the Rockies within one.

"The homer I gave up was the only time I shook off [Francisco Cervelli]," Archer said of his catcher. "That was my bad. I should have listened to him. That's a part of it. Huge to get a series W, going into San Francisco with our heads held high."

After Pittsburgh added an insurance run on a bases-loaded sacrifice fly from Marte in the top of the eighth, the Rockies battled back to within one again. Closer Felipe Vazquez came in to face pinch-hitter Chris Iannetta with runners on first and third. Iannetta smashed a liner 106.8 mph, according to Statcast™, but Frazier made a brilliant play to rob the potential game-tying single and end the bottom of the inning.

Video: PIT@COL: Vazquez gets fly out, notches 26th save

Vazquez retired the Rockies in order to secure the four-out save and his 26th of the season, wrapping up a dominant series for Pirates pitchers. The Rockies scored seven runs total against Bucs hurlers in the three-game set.

MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Archer's fifth inning was decisive, with Charlie Blackmon lacing a one-out single to left followed by DJ LeMahieu taking Polanco up against the wall in right to record the second out. After a walk to Dahl, Archer faced Nolan Arenado in the cleanup spot with the tying run on second. Archer got Arenado looking at a pair of four-seamers for strikes, then threw a 92 mph slider to earn a soft comebacker to the mound for the final out.

Video: PIT@COL: Archer strands a pair on groundout

"We had a mound visit and we went over the sequence," Archer said. "Cervelli said, 'I want you to go down and away, and then we'll work from there.' Three pitches right where he wanted me to. But again, the confidence and conviction that the guys instilled in me and the way we played defense allows you to throw the ball over the plate and trust the guys behind you."

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
The play of the game was Frazier's eighth-inning diving snare of Ianetta's screeching grounder. With Vazquez supplying triple-digit heat, Frazier had no option but to rely on instincts with a dive to his left.

Video: PIT@COL: Frazier saves runs with a diving stop

"Flip's throwing 100 [mph], so I had a feeling it's coming my way if [Iannetta] got inside of it, and he did," Frazier said. "I just reacted, dove, and luckily it stuck in my glove. I'm pretty happy I made that play."

HE SAID IT
"I'm really happy here. We play to the last out, no matter what." -- Archer, on adjusting to his new team

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
The Rockies challenged a call on a key play in bottom of the seventh. Blackmon hit a lead-off single to center and then attempted to steal second. He was ruled out on the play, and although select replay angles seemed to show he beat the tag, the replay officials ultimately ruled that they were unable to definitively determine that the fielder failed to tag the runner prior to the runner touching second base. The ruling on the field stood after a two minute, 47-second review. The Pirates avoided opening the inning with the tying run on second and nobody out, instead nabbing Blackmon and striking out LeMahieu and Dahl for a quick inning.

Video: PIT@COL: Cervelli gets Blackmon, call stands

UP NEXT
Right-hander Ivan Nova climbs the hill Thursday as the Pirates open a series in San Francisco at 10:15 p.m. ET. The Giants counter with southpaw Andrew Suarez. Nova allowed four runs in four innings in his last start against the Cardinals, and he will be looking to extend his length and improve his efficiency. He has pitched more than five innings just twice since July, accounting for his only two wins in that span.

Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com based in Denver.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Chris Archer