LEADING OFF: Archer to make Pirates debut, Rays roll at home
A look at what’s happening around the majors today:
MORE THAN A RENTAL
Chris Archer makes his first start for the Pirates in what the team hopes could be the beginning of a long and productive stint in Pittsburgh. The Pirates acquired Archer from the Tampa Bay Rays ahead of Tuesday’s non-waiver trade deadline. Pittsburgh also got closer Keone Kela from the Texas Rangers and drew praise around baseball for acquiring players who will remain under team control for years. Archer has options in his contract that could keep him in Pittsburgh through 2021. Kela won’t be eligible for free agency until after the 2021 season.
The 29-year-old Archer, a former All-Star, hopes to help the Pirates earn a playoff spot. He made the postseason once in seven seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays. Pittsburgh got back into contention with an 11-game winning streak last month.
EMPTY HOME-FIELD ADVANTAGE
Tropicana Field is known as a tough place to play – not necessarily because of the Tampa Bay Rays, but because of the quiet, sterile atmosphere and the odd catwalks that sometimes catch balls in play. Tampa Bay ranks 29th among the 30 teams in average attendance, drawing 14,851 per game.
Lately, though, the Rays have done their part. Tampa Bay is 20-4 at the Trop since June 11, the best home record in the majors during that span, and can improve on that mark by winning the opener of a three-game series against the Chicago White Sox on Friday. The Rays have increasingly turned to “bullpen days” during their surge – using a reliever as the ”opener” to work an inning or two and then turning to a long reliever. That’s what they’ll do on Friday, too, with Ryne Stanek scheduled to start against Chicago’s Lucas Giolito.
The Yankees hope their ace will get back on track amid turmoil at the bottom of their starting rotation. Luis Severino has allowed 17 earned runs over 19 1/3 innings in his last four starts, and the All-Star’s ERA has risen from 1.98 to 2.94 during that span. His most recent outing was the worst of the bunch as he allowed six runs in 4 1/3 innings in a loss to Kansas City. He takes the mound Friday against the rival Boston Red Sox and Rick Porcello (13-4, 4.03).
The Washington Nationals are scoring runs in bunches, and Bryce Harper is a big reason why. Harper is 7 for 13 over his past four games with a homer and five RBIs, and the Nats followed up their 25-4 romp over the Mets by scoring 15 runs in winning their next two games. Having Adam Eaton and Daniel Murphy healthy enough to play every day has made a difference, along with the emergence of rookie Juan Soto, who’s been hitting behind Harper after Washington struggled to protect him through much of the first half.
”When your seven-hole hitter is Daniel Murphy, you’ve got a chance,” Harper said after Wednesday’s game. ”It’s a special lineup.”
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