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Already a hit, Pirates’ Chris Archer will have a chance to get a hit

August 8, 2018

Pirates pitcher Chris Archer smiles during a news conference Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2018, at PNC Park.

The Pittsburgh Pirates’ window for snaring a playoff berth is still open, but at some point this month the team needs to make a statement similar to its 11-game winning streak in July.

There’s no better time to start than Friday when Chris Archer makes his debut with the Pirates in the first of a three-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Pirates are seven games behind the first-place Chicago Cubs in the National League Central and four off the second wild-card playoff berth.

But before they can think about moving up, they must look closer to home where the Cardinals (56-53) and Pirates (56-53) are tied for third in the Central.

Here’s what to look for Friday:

1. Coming over from the American League’s Tampa Bay Rays, Archer has only 28 career at-bats and two hits, but one of them was against the Cardinals last year. The designated hitter is discarded when an AL team visits an NL stadium, and 44,469 were in Busch Stadium to see Archer’s single.

“I closed my eyes and swung,” he told reporters that night.

He hasn’t had a chance to bat this season, but don’t be fooled. He has athletic skills beyond a strong arm.

He’s a former option quarterback and champion high jumper in high school, and he fancies himself a good base runner, even though he slid past the base in his only steal attempt in his rookie year (2012). “Initially, the umpire called me safe and my foot came off and I was out,” he said Wednesday.

“It’s been a while,” he said of swinging a bat with a purpose. “One of the things I like to do is run the bases, be smart, but I’m going to try and take an extra base and get in scoring position when I can.”

2. In that game last year against the Cardinals, he struck out eight batters in seven innings while throwing 101 pitches, but he wasn’t around to get the decision when the Rays won in the 10th inning, 3-2.

Yadier Molina struck out twice and Matt Carpenter once in six hitless at-bats, but Kolten Wong homered against him. Greg Garcia was 2 for 3, with a double.

3. If Archer wins the game, it will be his first victory since May 17. He missed most of the month of June with an abdominal injury, and he allowed 10 earned runs in his next four starts. The Rays won three of those games, and Archer struck out 13 against the Miami Marlins in a 6-4 Rays victory July 27.

In his four starts before going on the DL, he walked 11 batters. In the next four, only five.

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