ATLANTA -- Chris Archer likes to point out that he has made nearly 200 starts in the major leagues – 198 for those counting – over his eight-year career.
Thus, Archer certainly knows one of the principle tenets of pitching at baseball’s highest level. Pitches that aren’t located well often get hit a long way.
That is exactly what happened Tuesday night when Archer was tagged for five home runs in six innings in the Pirates’ 7-5 loss to the Braves at SunTrust Park that was called after eight innings because of rain. The Pirates (30-36) have dropped six in a row to fall a season-worst six games under .500.
Archer had a nightmarish second inning in which the Braves hit back-to-back homers twice, three of them coming on fastballs. That wiped out the Pirates' early 2-0 lead.
Josh Donaldson and Nick Markakis led off the inning by going deep on four-seamers. After Archer struck out Austin Riley, Brian McCann and Ozzie Albies connected on a two-seamer and a changeup in succession to put the Braves ahead, 4-2:
Archer talked about the fourth:
Straight down the middle would be a good thing if Archer were participating in the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach later this week. In baseball, it’s not so good.
“No matter how hard you’re throwing, how good your stuff was the inning before or the game before, if you throw stuff right down the middle you’re going to get blasted,” Archer said. “They’re an aggressive team and they jumped me. I didn’t make the adjustment I should have made and that was pretty much the ballgame.”
It was the first time the Pirates gave up four home runs in an inning in 63 years since the New York Giants pulled off the feat in the first game of a doubleheader on July 8, 1956. Vernon Law got taken deep in the fourth inning at the Polo Grounds by Willie Mays, Hank Thompson and Daryl Spencer before Johnny O’Brien served up a homer to Wes Westrum.
The Braves hadn’t hit back-to-back home runs twice in the same inning since 1965, a year before the franchise relocated to Atlanta from Milwaukee.
Yet the most damaging home run allowed by Archer came after the Pirates had pulled into a 4-4 tie. McCann hit a three-run blast off the windows of the restaurant in right field to put the Braves ahead for good as they improved to 20-9 in their past 29 games and stayed in a first-place tie with the Phillies in the National League East.
“I was trying to throw a heater up and in and it came back over the middle a little bit,” Archer said.
Archer’s pitch count was at 87 after five innings, but he had not allowed a run in the previous three innings and only one hit. Thus, Clint Hurdle kept him in for one more inning.
“We had a lot of confidence in him to go out and pitch the sixth inning, but the sixth inning didn’t finish the way anybody wanted it to,” Hurdle said.
Archer wound up allowing seven runs and eight hits in six innings with two walks and eight strikeouts. That continued his road woes as Archer is 0-3 in four starts away from home with an 8.71 ERA.
The home run ball also continued to be a problem as Archer has now served up 16 in 11 starts and 59 2/3 innings. Of the 40 runs he has allowed this season, 25 have been the result of homers.
Adding to Pirates’ frustration was that the umpires stopped the game just as they were getting ready to bat in the ninth inning, down 7-5. The game was called after a one-hour, 48-minute delay just as the rain had stopped. The reasoning the umpires gave Hurdle was that the Braves’ stadium operations felt it would take an hour to get the field ready to play. By that time, Hurdle was told, radar indicated that rain would be falling again.
“I’m obviously very disappointed,” Hurdle said. “It’s two nights in a row that two decisions that were out of our hands went again us.”
On Monday night, Joe Musgrove was ejected in the first inning of a 13-7 loss to the Braves. That forced the Pirates to use their beleaguered bullpen for 7 2/3 innings.
Kevin Newman, who had three hits, was scheduled to lead off the ninth as the Pirates had the top of the order due up with Corey Dickerson and Starling Marte behind him. However, Newman never had the chance to bat and he expressed his disappointment when I asked him about it:
My five thoughts on the game can be found here.
• Jordan Lyles, right-hander, left hamstring tightness Monday, is on the 10-day DL.
• Trevor Williams, right-hander, is on the 10-day IL with a right side strain. He is expected to make a rehab start Thursday for Class AAA Indianapolis.
• Francisco Cervelli, catcher, is on the seven-day concussion IL and won't rejoin the team on this trip.
• Jameson Taillon, right-hander, is on the 60-day IL with a right elbow flexor tendon strain and is rehabbing in Bradenton, Fla.
• Keone Kela, right-hander, is on the 10-day IL with right shoulder inflammation and is rehabbing in Bradenton.
• Chris Stratton, right-hander, is on the 10-day IL with right side discomfort. He began a rehab assignment with Indianapolis on Tuesday night, allowing one run in two innings.
• Rookie Davis, right-hander, is on the 10-day DL with a right middle finger blister.
• Erik Gonzalez, shortstop, is on the 60-day IL with a left clavicle fracture.
• Nick Burdi, relief pitcher, is on the 60-day IL with right elbow/pain caused by a nerve problem and is rehabbing in Bradenton.
• Lonnie Chisenhall, outfielder, is on the 60-day IL with a left calf strain and is currently rehabbing at his home in North Carolina.
The third game of the four-game series is set for 7:20 Wednesday night with Mitch Keller (0-1, 13.50) facing fellow rookie Mike Soroka (7-1, 1.38). Keller will be making his second major-league start after giving up six runs in four innings to the Reds at Cincinnati on May 27 in his debut. Soroka's only loss came in his season debut April 18 against the Diamondbacks. I will be on the coverage as the clubhouse opens at 4:15 p,m.
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