How much more can you do? Why is it that every time something goes wrong? How have the Rays managed to loss all three of Chris Archer‘s starts and a relief appearance where he pitched his heart out? At the same time you can ask how the Rays have let a once-promising season all but slip away.
How has Chris Archer lost? In his first start, a rough first inning punctuated by a key error set him off on the wrong foot and he was unable to recover as Stephen Strasburg was outstanding for the Nationals. In his second start, the Rays got out to an early 2-0 lead, but Archer had one bad inning, allowing 4 runs, and the Rays failed to muster even a single run the rest of the game. In his third start, he left with the game tied after a fabulous 11-strikeout outing, but the Rays bullpen faltered as the Rays could not come away with a win in a highly-contested extra-inning game. And in his relief appearance versus Baltimore, Archer and the Rays managed to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles. The bases loaded with nobody out in the 13th and the Rays brought in a 5th infielder- a strategy that legitimately always fails- and it worked! And then in the 14th, when Manny Machado hit a bloop to left field, Matt Joyce dived, and it looked like he caught it! But he didn’t- it somehow got away and the Rays lost.
Why has the Rays’ season collapsed like it has? The defense has simply not been the same as it was in previous years. The Rays’ offense has come through so inconsistently, and the pressure has been constantly on the Rays’ starting pitchers to be as close to perfect as they can possibly manage. Sometimes they wilt and crumble. All season, the Rays have gotten great pitching, but the fewer runs you score, the closer games remain, and inevitably the bullpen is going to allow runs and that has led to way too many Rays losses in a 1-run and extra-inning games. And the extra-inning loss might be the perfect encapsulation of the Rays’ implosion of late. The Rays have overcome so much. They have fought through injury after injury to remain in contention. Then they’re playing well and they’re ready to not just breathe a sigh of relief but to get excited about their potential this year, and suddenly everything slips away and it’s over before you know it.
It’s not over for the Rays yet, not mathematically and not in reality. But something has to change now. Can Archer, who has been a symbol of the Rays’ frustration this season, be the pitcher who starts the turnaround and gives the Rays at least once final chance to live up to the promise we still know they have?