PORT CHARLOTTE — Chris Archer was the Rays’ opening-day starter the past four years, pitching each time in a sold-out Tropicana Field before crowds of 31,042.
But in being named the starter for the Pirates’ 2019 home opener (Pittsburgh’s fourth game overall), Archer said it took last year’s trade to Pittsburgh to show him how much a crowd — even a smaller one — can help a pitcher.
“Probably for the first time in my career, I realized home-field advantage is a real thing,” Archer told reporters Monday in Bradenton. “Having those fans in your corner, I’ve never experienced it on that level.''
After being traded for Tyler Glasnow, Austin Meadows and prospect Shane Baz, Archer went 3-3 with a 4.30 ERA in 10 starts for the Pirates. He was 3-5, 4.31 in 17 starts for the Rays before the July 31 deal.
Archer made his Pirates debut at home on Aug. 3, greeted warmly by a crowd of 26,773 at PNC Park. He made three other home starts for the Pirates, before crowds announced at 16,445, 19,515, and 13,073. For the season, the Pirates averaged 18,786 fans per game, just ahead of the Rays, who averaged 14,258.
Archer told reporters he was excited for the opportunity to start the Pirates’ home opener.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” he said. “The energy in the city around that time of the year, it’s always buzzing. I’ve never been a part of it. I’ve only heard. And I can’t wait to experience it.”
For what it’s worth, Archer said Jameson Taillon was well worthy of the opening day assignment.
“It’s well deserved,” Archer said. “He’s still just scratching the surface. Honestly, it’s a lot like when I was with Blake Snell last year. There’s going to be even more greatness in him this year. I can see it.”