Pirates fall short after Archer's rough inning

Right-hander settles down after 1st; several players could be moving

July 28th, 2019

NEW YORK -- Three weeks ago, the Pirates finished the first half on a winning note, capping a run that saw them win 12 of 17 games to pull them within 2 1/2 games of both the top of the National League Central and an NL Wild Card spot.

Things were looking up. There was even talk of the Pirates being buyers at the Trade Deadline for a second consecutive year.

That break proved to be the worst thing possible for the Pirates, who fell Sunday for the 14th time in their last 16 games, this time an 8-7 defeat at the hands of the Mets at Citi Field. It was Pittsburgh’s eighth straight loss, leaving them 10 games back in both the division and Wild Card races. 

“Two weeks ago, the narrative was completely different,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “But within two weeks, the reality of our performance level has changed the narrative. You want to switch the narrative back the other way? You need to perform better.”

Chris Archer, last year’s big Trade Deadline acquisition, struggled yet again Sunday, giving up six runs – all in the first inning -- over five frames. Archer has a 5.78 ERA in five July starts, and his disturbing home run trend – he’s allowed an NL-high 25 this season -- continued as Michael Conforto took him deep on his fifth pitch of the day.

“I just came out extremely passive; I wasn’t pitching like myself,” Archer said. “My stuff was flat, but it wasn’t a matter of my delivery; it was more a matter of my mentality. Unacceptable. I’m 30 years old; I know how to come out and attack. … I should have done a better job of turning the page [after the home run]. The next guy walked and things started to trickle and snowball after that.”

To his credit, Archer followed with four scoreless innings as the Pirates chipped away at the lead. The Mets carried an 8-3 lead into the ninth, and despite a pair of two-run homers by Bryan Reynolds and Jose Osuna, Edwin Diaz was able to finally close the game, sending Pittsburgh to another close loss.

“We’re not winning, but we’re fighting,” Hurdle said. “We’d like to win.”

General manager Neal Huntington will almost certainly make some moves prior to Wednesday’s 4 p.m. ET Trade Deadline, with impending free agents , , and representing the most obvious candidates. Others who could potentially be moved include and .

“We like the core of this club,” Huntington said Sunday during his weekly KDKA-FM radio show. “We like the group of players we have coming behind. At the same time, it’s always our job to listen and engage on ways to put this team in as good a possible position to make the postseason with the idea of working to win a World Series.

“We’re in the process of looking at future clubs.”

While Huntington looks to match up with other clubs on potential deals, Hurdle continues to try righting the ship inside the clubhouse. Eight straight losses tend to bring about a host of questions, and one of the most pressing inquiries Sunday involved the upcoming Trade Deadline and its impact on the players that might be affected most.

“We’ve had conversations about that already,” Hurdle said. “I’ve got one guy that’s been traded three times already at the Trade Deadline that’s been a great source of information for anybody that may have some questions in Liriano. Melky has been traded once at a Trade Deadline and a handful of times the other way. It all goes back to what a lot of people don’t want to talk about; you can control what you can control.

“You can’t control what’s going to happen at the Trade Deadline. Worry and anxiety do you no good whatsoever; your focus needs to be on what you can do today to help your team win a ballgame and what you can do today to get better.”

That message appears to be getting through to the players, who are doing their best to shut out the outside noise and focus on the task at hand.

“The one thing that Clint has harped on is just focusing on today, not looking too far ahead,” Archer said. “Enjoying the 25 that are in this room right now. All those other things, we can’t control. I think there’s a possibility that some things might get shaken up, but that’s anywhere. All 30 teams are going to think about doing something and we’re no different.”

Deals involving the impending free agents would seem to be a formality given the Pirates’ recent slide down the standings, but even as his team heads to Cincinnati for its final three games before Wednesday’s deadline, Huntington insists he’ll only make moves he believes benefit his team.

“A lot of it will depend upon the market. Just because a player is on an expiring contract doesn’t mean that there’s not an opportunity to retain that player,” Huntington said. “It doesn’t mean that it’s the right thing to just grab a nickel, if that’s all you can get; the player may have more value for us continuing to perform, whether he may directly help our club or indirectly help our club. There’s still a value that you’re looking to return to believe that you can help future clubs, and if that value’s not there, you may end up holding that player or going in a different direction.”

Worth noting

• Dickerson (left groin) remained out of the lineup Sunday, though Hurdle said he could have been used as a late-inning pinch-hitter. Dickerson should be available off the bench Monday and could return to the lineup Tuesday in Cincinnati.

’s ninth-inning single was the 1,000th hit of his career. He is the 11th player in Pirates history to collect 1,000 hits and 100 home runs for Pittsburgh.