Chris Archer was again dominant against Toronto on Tuesday night, in the Tampa Bay Rays 4-3 win against the Blue Jays. Archer posted eight strong innings for the third time in his last six starts, and gave up just three hits and two runs (one earned), while walking one and fanning seven. He has allowed just one earned run in three starts against the best offensive team in the majors. The Rays split the first two games of their three-game set against the Jays, and remain one game up in the AL East.
Tampa Bay initially took the lead in the second inning, after Asdrubal Cabrera singled to center, then was wild pitched to second and scored on an RBI base-hit to left by Brandon Guyer.
Meanwhile Archer sailed right out the gates, retiring his first 13 batters before Dioner “Whiskers” Navarro hammered his second homer in as many days — this one a fifth inning solo shot into the front row of the right-center field seats. Whiskers’ last five homers have come against his former team.
However, the Rays immediately answered against RA Dickey, and it all started with a one out single by Kevin Kiermaier (his second hit of the game). Kiermaier advanced to second on a passed ball, and scored on Joey Butler’s RBI liner to right-center — giving the Rays a one run advantage. Evan Longoria worked a five pitch walk, advancing Butler to second, then Logan Forsythe blasted a ball to deep right-center that center fielder Kevin Pillar ran down. The ball popped out of Pillar’s glove as he made contact with the wall, and Butler seized on the opportunity. Butler tagged up and scored from second as the throw to cutoff man, Ryan Goins, short-hopped him and trickled away, giving the Rays a two-run lead.
Aside from Navarro’s home run, Archer only got into trouble once more in the seventh inning. Jose Bautista worked a leadoff walk after falling behind 0-2. One out later, Archer got ahead of Navarro before allowing a bloop single to center, enabling Bautista to advance to third.
Archer came back to coax a Russell Martin pop-out in foul territory, but Ezequiel Carrera followed with a slow bouncer to third, which Evan Longoria fielded quickly and fired on the run to Jake Elmore at first. Yet Elmore was unable to handle Longoria’s throw as it went under his glove and rolled into the bullpen, allowing Bautista to score and the runners to advance to second and third. Archer induced a grounder to first out of Pillar to end the inning.
The ace came back out in the eighth and tossed an efficient 10 pitch 1-2-3 inning, punctuated with a strikeout of Josh Donaldson — his seventh punch out of the game.
Archer, who is now 9-4 on the season, had everything working. The righty was overpowering and efficient, averaging just 12-1/2 pitches per inning.
I mean, all three of my pitches were there, Archer said after the game. I could locate my fastball on both sides. I felt comfortable throwing anything at any time, first time through or fourth time through the order. Just kind of went with (Rene Rivera), and obviously that comes from the scouting report that our coaches put together.
Tampa Bay tacked on a key run in the eighth, on a towering homer to right-field by Cabrera off reliever Steve Delabar. Interestingly enough, the home run was preceded by a foul ball that had home run distance.
The extra run proved critical, as Edwin Encarnacion homered against Brad Boxberger with one out in the ninth inning. But Boxberger got Whiskers to ground out to second, and struck out Russell Martin (swinging) to finish the game and earn save number 19.
The New What Next
Nathan Karns (4-3, 3.53 ERA) will face Marco Estrada (5-3, 3.92 ERA) and the Blue Jays in the rubber match of the three-game series on Wednesday. Karns will look to find similar success from his first career start against Toronto back on September 12. In that start, Karns became the first hurler in franchise history to go seven-plus innings and allow two hits or fewer in his club debut. Estrada took a no-hitter into the eighth inning during his last start against the Orioles. It was the fourth time in his last five outings that Estrada recorded a quality start. You can read about the pitching matchup in our series preview.
Rays 6/24/14 Starting Lineup
— At 15-7, Tampa Bay has clinched its first winning June since 2011.
— The Rays’ 41 wins are more than all but two teams: the St. Louis Cardinals have 46, and the Houston Astros have 42.