On paper, tonight’s game looked like a mismatch – Chris Archer making his debut against Steven Strasburg. In the end, this was a closer game than expected.
It was obvious that Archer was a trifle nervous in the bottom of the first. He went to a three ball count to leadoff hitter Stephen Lombardozzi, before surrendering a double to deep center. Bryce Harper followed with an RBI single to center, taking second on the throw home, and giving the Nationals an early 1-0 lead. Ryan Zimmerman hit a ground ball to short, with Elliot Johnson making an errant throw to third in an attempt to cut down the runner. Harper scored on the play, extending the lead to 2-0. Zimmerman took second on the play. After a wild pitch moved Zimmerman to third, Archer got two quick outs before Ian Desmond grounded a base hit through the left side, giving the Nationals a 3-0 lead.
With two outs in the top of the second, Jose Molina hit a home run to deep left field, cutting the lead to 3-1. The Rays would rally again with two outs in the top of the third, as Carlos Pena drew a walk, moved to second on a B.J. Upton single to left, and scored on a single that Hideki Matsui grounded through the right side. The lead had been cut to 3-2, and the momentum of the game had shifted.
Archer settled in and was dominant after the first, allowing only a walk to Harper in the third inning. For the game, he went 6 innings, allowing 3 runs (2 earned) on 3 hits and the 1 walk, while striking out 7 batters. Meanwhile, Strasburg shut the Rays down after the third, handing Archer a tough loss in his major league debut.
Hopefully for the Rays, this start is a sign of things to come for Archer going forward.