It may not have been perfect, and the Rays may have left a little to be desired following a pair of seventh inning running gaffes by Yunel Escobar and David DeJesus, but Tampa Bay was able to walk away with a 3-0 shutout victory over the Twins Friday night — increasing their chances of reaching the postseason once more.
According to Marc Topkin, after lasting just 7.2 innings combined over his last two starts, Maddon and Co. “Put Chris Archer on notice, making it known they were watching their 24-year-old rookie closely to see how he would handle both the physical and mental aspects of pitching in his first significant September.” And after coming off a series loss to Boston, the Rays needed to take advantage of playing against the sub .500, and struggling, Twins. The Rays rookie responded to the pressure well, throwing six shutout innings, while striking out seven and impressively walking none. Suffice it to say, Chris Archer was fantastic Friday night.
It all starts with fastball command, and to put it bluntly, Archer had it. Chris was able to get his fastball across 63% of the time, inducing six swings and misses. His secondary pitches were absolutely superb, throwing both his change-up and slider for strikes (plus) 70% of the time. Archer only really got into trouble in the fifth inning when the Rays led by two.
With the Twins threatening, Archer faced Clete Thomas and Eduardo Escobar. Up for the challenge, he only needed 10 pitches (total) to ring up the pair — getting each to strikeout looking at change-ups down in the zone. Archer hasn’t leaned on his change-up of late, favoring his fastball and slider instead. Erik Hahmann of DRaysBay asserted, he, “Uses it the least of his arsenal and nearly exclusively against lefties, but it gets swung at and put in play the most.” Being able to locate that pitch down in the zone will help Archer go a long way. In the least, it’s another weapon in his arsenal going into the postseason.
Maddon shut Archer down early, after throwing only 87 pitches, presumably to preserve the righties arm — his 166 innings pitched between Triple-A and MLB are a career high. Archer got help from the relief tandem of Jake McGee, Joel Peralta and Fernando Rodney. The three relievers were incredibly efficient on Friday the 13th, and as Rays bullpen catcher Scott Cursi pointed out, they threw 13 pitches apiece — combining to strikeout four.
On the other side of things, the Rays batters weren’t exactly an offensive juggernaut. However, the Rays were able to do something they haven’t been able to do of late: Drive in runners in scoring position (the Rays went 4-9 wRISP). Interestingly enough, Wil Myers, Yunel Escobar, and Jose Molina hit four doubles on the night, and each of them were driven home.
This isn’t to say they were perfect, after all, there was an opportunity to blow the game open in the seventh inning after back-to-back doubles by Jose Molina and Yunel Escobar. With a runner on second and no outs, David DeJesus moved Escobar to third on a single. Ben Zobrist attempted to bunt, but instead popped into a double play when an overly eager Escobar was caught off third. DeJesus was then picked off trying to steal second. DeJesus has 62 career steals, though he’s been caught 57 times. Perhaps he should rethink swiping a bag, at least for the time being.
The win, coupled with the Yankees loss, increased the Rays lead to 1.5 games over Cleveland, 2 over New York, 2.5 over Baltimore and 3.5 over Kansas City. Better yet, Oakland’s shellacking of Texas puts the Rays just one game out of the first Wild Card spot.
The New What Next
Matt Moore will toe the rubber against rookie Andrew Albers this evening. You can read about the pitching match-up here.
Rays 9/14/13 Starting Lineup
- Kelly Johnson will take the place of the struggling Ben Zobrist at second today, hitting second in the lineup.
- Tampa Bay has now taken 10 consecutive regular season games from the Twins, extending back to 2012.
- The Rays have jumped back up from a 53% chance, to a 68.9% chance of making the playoffs (per Fangraphs). Let’s keep up that momentum, boys!