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Bucs head home: 'It's starting to come together'

With two wins in Miami to end a rough road trip, team stays positive
@cdenicola13
June 16, 2019

MIAMI -- When the Pirates (32-39) embarked on this three-city, 10-day tour, they were one game below .500. They then squared off against the Brewers and Braves in consecutive series, dropping seven in a row. Down by a pair of runs in the latter part of Sunday afternoon's game at

MIAMI -- When the Pirates (32-39) embarked on this three-city, 10-day tour, they were one game below .500. They then squared off against the Brewers and Braves in consecutive series, dropping seven in a row.

Down by a pair of runs in the latter part of Sunday afternoon's game at Marlins Park, the Pirates rallied for a 5-4 victory over the Marlins, finishing a rough road trip with a series win. Pittsburgh will get a much-welcomed day off on Monday before opening a two-game set against the Tigers at PNC Park.

"Things will definitely start to turn," said right-hander Chris Archer, who struck out eight batters over five frames in a no-decision. "We've been playing some really good teams. We played Milwaukee and the Braves, who are top in the division. We as a pitching staff need to be a little better. Our offense is doing a great job, and it looks like it's starting to come together."

And perhaps Archer is right.

Box score

Right-hander Trevor Williams will come back from the injured list to start on Wednesday and righty Jordan Lyles threw a bullpen session on Saturday, with a possible return later this week. Southpaw Steven Brault has a 1.65 ERA in June. With three off-days over the next eight, the Pirates can get creative.

The banged-up rotation took a toll on the relief corps, which needed to eat up innings. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle asked Archer, whom he called “our ace,” whether he could get the fifth after a 45-pitch, four-run fourth.

“I didn’t want him walking away from this game with that taste in his mouth from the fourth inning,” Hurdle said. “The way this game turned out, I think the mindset has been rearranged a little as well. If he doesn’t get that fifth inning, we don’t use the bullpen the way we wanted to.”

Three relievers combined for four scoreless frames in Sunday's win. With setup man Keone Kela transferred to the 60-day injured list and no timetable set for his return, Hurdle mentioned finding complementary late-inning pieces.

Righty Richard Rodríguez pitched a clean sixth, while right-hander Kyle Crick went 1 2/3 innings and closer Felipe Vázquez recorded a four-out save.

"That's exactly what we're looking for," Hurdle said. "That's another reason to give [Archer] the opportunity to throw one more inning, to get us through five. We've had a lot of short starts that cause a lot of collateral damage, a lot of turbulence for a lot of people. We'll see where we can go from here. I like the way it's setting up."

During the pitching staff's struggles, the offense has picked up the slack over the past eight weeks. Pittsburgh has averaged 5.7 runs per game since May 23, second most in the Majors.

At the end of a stretch of 27 games in 27 days, Hurdle gave Jung Ho Kang (two-run double) and Melky Cabrera (RBI triple) starts. Corey Dickerson came off the bench to drive in a run. All-Star candidate Josh Bell continued his strong first half with the go-ahead RBI double off righty Nick Anderson in the seventh.

"We have a lot of weapons," said Bell, who paces the Majors with 65 RBIs. "We're in a scenario where we have a lot of guys, a lot of moving parts, a lot of guys that can come off the bench and do damage. It's exciting baseball, especially offensively right now."

Christina De Nicola is a reporter and game producer for MLB.com based in Miami. Follow her on Twitter @CDeNicola13.