Chris Archer slumped at the waist, hands on his knees, head down. He didn't need to watch the ball rocket off Freddie Freeman's bat. The sound — and the reaction from the crowd — said it all: That ball was gone.
And it didn't surprise Archer one bit.
After the game at PNC Park, I asked Archer about his reaction there, and he told me it wasn't just a display of disappointment after giving up a home run. It was the fact he shook off the original pitch selection from Jacob Stallings in favor of the two-seamer that got ripped into the stands.
He breaks it down:
Now, consider this: The Pirates went on to win, 6-1. That home run conceded by Archer in the opening frame was his only blunder on the afternoon en route to a 6.0 IP, six hits, one earned-run, two walks, six strikeouts line. His performance embodied everything this Pirates team has shown in 2019. The player may falter, but it's the response that matters. Archer's clean slate through the five innings after that early homer is just the latest example in a season-long display of perseverance.
"I mean, look, it's a long season," Archer was saying postgame at PNC Park. "One out of 162 or a handful out of 162 is not going to bring us down. We have some veterans in this clubhouse who know that, and we have some young dudes in this clubhouse who don't know the difference... One bad game where we play poorly doesn't really have a lingering effect on us."
The win completed a 2-1 series victory over the Braves, with the Pirates bouncing back after a 12-5 loss in the series-opener on Tuesday to take the last two before shipping off to Milwaukee for a three-game set against the Brewers.
"It's just kudos to the starters," Josh Bell was saying in the locker room after the game. "[Joe Musgrove] last night, just lights out, and then Archer bouncing the tides back for us here today. Top-tier stuff getting us back on the right foot."
The performances from Musgrove and Archer set the stage, but the bats still needed to show up — and they didn't delay.
In the second inning, Bell hit his first of three doubles on the day (more on that in "The Good"), bringing Colin Moran to the plate.
Moran did this:
Not to be left out of the fun, Gregory Polanco followed up Moran's blast with one of his own in the next at-bat:
Those back-to-back dingers sealed the game early for the Pirates. Bell would add a two-RBI double in the eighth, and Elias Diaz would drive home the sixth run that same inning, but it was written from that first rip off Moran's bat. Archer did his part, then Francisco Liriano tagged-in for 1 2/3 innings to hold the Braves' score at one.
"The entire time he was out there, he pitched clean," Clint Hurdle said of Liriano after the game. "Really good effort from him to back up what Archer was able to establish early."
Then came Felipe Vazquez, who did what Felipe Vazquez does, sealing the four-out save with just a little drama. He allowed a single and gave up two walks to load the bases in the ninth, but it was all for nothing, as he eventually struck out Dansby Swanson to end the game and give the Pirates the win.
"What's gonna happen is gonna happen," Hurdle said. "If I need to start worrying about Felipe, I need to head to the house."
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