The Pirates were the surprise darlings of this year’s trade deadline, storming in during the closing hours of open trading season to acquire Chris Archer, looking to take advantage of a sudden July hot streak that had them charging up the wildcard standings.
Pittsburgh won their game that day, too, improving their record to 56-52. The idea was Archer could give them the top of the rotation impact starter they needed to truly make a push (don’t think too hard about why they traded Gerrit Cole in the offseason, just roll with The Narrative), and they’d soon catch the Brewers, who failed to add a starting pitcher at the trading deadline.
While Milwaukee’s 8-11 record since the deadline is nothing to be happy about, Pittsburgh is 7-13 since selling its farm for Archer. Only the Miami Marlins have a worse winning percentage post-July 31st. It’s even worse than 7-13 looks -- they’ve lost 8 out of their last 10 games and have scored more than 1 run just two times in the last 8 days: wins of 3-1 and 2-1 over the Cubs on back-to-back days. Other than that, it’s been either 1 run or being shut out every day since August 15th. They’re now 7.5 games back of the second wildcard, and 1.5 games behind the Washington Nationals, who just started trading away everything that’s not nailed down in DC for free.
Looks like they really could’ve used Mike Moustakas and Jonathan Schoop.
Friday - 7:10 p.m. CDT
Joe Musgrove vs. Wade Miley
Saturday - 6:10 p.m. CDT
Jameson Taillon vs. Jhoulys Chacin
Sunday - 1:10 p.m. CDT
Chris Archer vs. Chase Anderson
The Pirates (still probably rightfully) took a lot of grief for the package they took in return for Gerrit Cole in the offseason, but Musgrove has proved to be better than even the most optimistic Pirates fans could have predicted this year. Finally getting an extended chance to prove himself as a starter after working as a swingman in Houston, Musgrove has put up a 3.31 ERA for Pittsburgh this year, with a still-respectable 3.55 FIP. He hasn’t been striking a ton of people out -- just 7.14 per 9 innings -- but he’s been able to strand nearly 74% of the baserunners he’s allowed this year, which is probably not something many of us want to hear after all of the runners the Brewers left on base in the Cincinnati series. He’s done it by lowering his line drive rate and increasing his soft-contact rate by more than 2% over last year’s numbers. He’s coming off a start in which he gave up just 1 run over 7 innings against the Cubs, with that run coming off of a solo homer.
Taillon has pitched well against the Brewers this year, even if he hasn’t pitched terribly deep into games. He’s limited Milwaukee to just 5 earned runs over 3 starts, striking out 18 batters in 16 innings. Most of those strikeouts came in his last appearance against the Brewers in the Series That Shall Not Be Named, when he struck out 10 over 6 innings. He’s been on a roll as of late, including throwing a complete game in Colorado earlier this month, allowing just 2 runs over those 9 innings at Coors Field. He hasn’t allowed more than 3 earned runs in a start since May 22nd.
But the game that will likely get most people’s attention in this series is Sunday, when the Brewers face Archer. The Pirates paid a pretty absurd price to get him -- Austin Meadows, Tyler Glasnow, and Shane Baz, who have all been Top 100 prospects -- and so far, well, it’s a good thing he has several years yet to prove his worth. It hasn’t been a great start to his time in Pittsburgh and a decent reminder that even if David Stearns had traded for pitching at the deadline, it’s no guarantee that move would have actually helped the team. In four starts with Pittsburgh, Archer has only been able to cover 18.1 innings, allowing 10 runs while walking 7 and striking out 19. That amounts to a 4.91 ERA, and he hasn’t pitched more than 5 innings in any start. The Brewers have been getting similar production out of Anderson and Junior Guerra since the trade deadline. Adding a third pitcher with that kind of performance at the cost of Corbin Burnes, Keston Hiura and at least another couple top prospects likely would’ve had people calling for David Stearns’ head. The Pirates likely would have been better off the past few weeks keeping Glasnow, who has a 3.38 ERA with 24 strikeouts in his first 4 starts with Tampa Bay.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference