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Chris Archer to make debut for Pirates vs. Cardinals

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The Pittsburgh Pirates beat out other teams to land right-hander Chris Archer at the non-waiver trade deadline Tuesday, and now they will get to see him in action.

Archer is scheduled to make his Pirates debut Friday when Pittsburgh opens a key National League Central series against the St. Louis Cardinals at PNC Park.

The Pirates gave up rookie outfielder Austin Meadows, right-hander Tyler Glasnow and a player to be named to acquire Archer from Tampa.

“Just the intensity he brings, the electric stuff that he has on the mound, he’s fun to watch,” Pittsburgh’s Sean Rodriguez, a former Rays teammate, said, according to mlb.com.

Archer is 3-5 with a 4.31 ERA and 1.39 WHIP in 17 starts. Over the past three seasons, he is 22-36 with a 4.10 ERA. He has been among the top three in the American League in strikeouts each of the past three seasons, the only Tampa pitcher to ever have three 200-strikeout seasons. He also has been reliably available, with at least 32 starts each of the past three seasons.

“We understand the surface numbers aren’t typical Chris Archer surface numbers,” Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said. “We believe the indicators are there that Chris Archer is still an upper-echelon, top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher.”

Archer arrived Wednesday and received a warm welcome from teammates and fans.

“That was the biggest relief after all the trade rumors — these guys really want me,” Archer said.

Pittsburgh and St. Louis have identical 56-53 records, tied for third in the division, following the Cardinals’ walk-off 3-2 win on Thursday against Colorado.

The Pirates, who were off Thursday, have won 16 of their past 20 games, boosting them into wild-card contention.

The Cardinals are 8-7 since the All-Star break and are not only in a playoff chase but also in the midst of a youth movement.

Gone, in the minor leagues or on the disabled list are Tyler Lyons, Sam Tuivailala, Greg Holland, Luke Voit, Tommy Pham, Matt Bowman, Brett Cecil and Luke Gregerson.

Called up or added through trade are Daniel Poncedeleon, Auston Gomber, Dakota Hudson, Tyler Webb, Tyler O’Neill and Chasen Shreve. St. Louis also recently added eight minor league players.

That follows the firing of manager Mike Matheny.

“We could have done it many different ways,” president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said, according to mlb.com. “We look at our system, and we’re just trying to add to it as well as creating opportunity at the major league level. Not everybody is going to agree with that philosophy. But that’s our road map, and we’re hopeful it’s successful.”

He called the current stretch of games a “peek at the future.”

The Cardinals could get one veteran back over the weekend. Second baseman Kolten Wong (left knee inflammation) is expected to travel to Pittsburgh and be activated from the disabled list as soon as Friday.

Right-hander John Gant (3-4, 3.49 ERA) is scheduled to start Friday for St. Louis. Gant is coming off a 5-2 loss to the Cubs on Sunday, when he matched a season low with 4 1/3 innings. He allowed three runs, two earned, including two homers.

Gant is 0-1 with a 4.22 ERA in four career appearances, two starts, against Pittsburgh.

The Giants are winning but they’re still gonna sell

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The state of baseball in general, the state of the National League in particular and the state of the San Francisco Giants as a competitor are conspiring to create what seems like at least a mildly absurd situation.

The Giants, a veteran-laden team that, as recently as this past offseason but definitely within the past couple of years, were at least talking about being on a win-now footing, just swept a four-game series, have won five straight games and have won 12 of 14 to pull themselves to within two and a half games of a playoff spot.

Yet, that’s all for temporary show, because they’re about to sell off. At least according to Jeff Passan at ESPN. Giants president Farhan Zaidi tried to push back on that in a radio interview yesterday, denying that the club has foreclosed the possibility of a postseason push, but I’m not really buying that and I don’t think most people are.

On one level it makes sense to ignore the recent surge and forge on with a rebuild. Sure, the Giants are winning but they’re not exactly good. They’re two and a half out of the Wild Card, but there are many teams ahead of them. There’s a lot of reason to think that they’re playing in good fortune right now and that that, rather than finding some extra gear of sustainable better play, is what’s to credit. Hot streaks can happen at any time but the trade deadline only comes once a year. When you have the best starter available in Madison Bumgarner and the best reliever available in Will Smith, you gotta make those deals. That’s what I’d probably do if I ran the Giants and I think that that’s, wisely, what Zaidi will do.

Still, it’s an odd look, less for the Giants specifically than for baseball as a whole. We may in an era of cheap front offices who don’t like to contend if it means spending money, but it’s unfair to paint the Giants with that brush. They’ve spent money and acquired talent and have done whatever they can to extend their 2010-2014 mini-dynasty a few more years and in doing so they’ve made a lot of fans happy. That team has pretty much reached the end and, even in an earlier, more competitive era, they’d not be properly criticized for starting in on a rebuild. Heck, they’d be excused if they had done it a year or two earlier, frankly.

But, because so many teams have punted on improving themselves, these aging Giants are at least superficially competitive. As such, when they do sell off in the coming days, it’ll look to some like they’re waving a white flag or something when they’re not really doing that. I mean, the Rockies and the Pirates, among other teams, should be much better than they are but didn’t seem all that interested in improving, thereby helping the Giants look better, right? It’s less a knock on the Giants for rebuilding when they’re within striking distance of the playoffs than it is on the rest of the league for allowing a team like the Giants to be within striking distance of a playoff spot.

But that’s where we are right now. An insanely competitive Wild Card race from teams that, on the whole, are rather unconcerned with being competitive. What a time to be a baseball fan.