Mar 9, 2014; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer (22) throws a pitch during the first inning against the New York Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Armed with a new contract extension, Chris Archer took the mound for the fourth and final game of the season opening series against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Overall, Archer pitched composed and Rays fans have to be happy. He got into some trouble in the third and fourth innings but only allowed two runs in six innings, striking out seven Blue Jays.
In the third inning, with Maicer Izturis on third and one out, Melky Cabrera hit a ball up the middle and Yunel Escobar‘s defensive prowess was on full display. He dove, picked it cleanly, and threw Cabrera out. Izturus remained at third. Archer struck the next batter out. End of threat.
The top of the fourth looked like it may spin out of control for the Rays and Archer after they plated three runs the previous half inning. A Jose Bautista walk led off the inning and, one batter later, Adam Lind doubled. Desmond Jennings got a late break on the ball and dove for it. He missed the ball and left fielder Logan Forsythe had to chase it. Jennings was slow starting for the ball and he only made matters worse by diving. Jose Bautista only made it to third, though. Dioner Navarro hit a sacrifice fly that plated Bautista. Brett Lawrie hit a ball up the middle that Escobar again snagged but he had no play. He was also not paying attention to Lind and Lind scored from second on an infield hit. Chris Archer could have easily fell apart but he came back and struck out Maicer Izturus to end the inning.
Archer settled in and pitched a relatively uneventful fifth and sixth, looking very strong in the sixth. His fastball and slider were both working really. Archer’s fastball was both moving and smoking. Twenty-one times he touched 95 or higher with his fastball, striking Edwin Encarnacion on a nasty running fastball in the sixth. If one were to be picky, it would have to be that he did not throw his change-up at all. Even when Archer was staked to a four run lead, he stuck to his nasty fastball and slider combination. It was more than enough but one has to wonder, if he doesn’t have the confidence with a 4-0 lead, when he will.
After two games in hibernation, the offense came back to life somewhat. Desmond Jennings collected his fourth double of the season and, except for the bad misplay in the fourth, played well. He hustled out a double in the third that David DeJesus scored on. Jennings probably will never be as good as BJ Upton in center field but he seems on the cusp of breaking out at the plate. If he gives the Rays a consistent threat at the plate, the Rays will live with the mishaps that flare up occasionally in the field.
Through the first three games, the Rays had not hit a home run. Rays TV announcers Dewayne Staats and Brian Anderson were making note of this when Evan Longoria came up in the bottom of the seventh. They thought that, if anyone would break the snide, it would be Longo. Toronto pitcher Esmil Rogers threw Longoria a slider that didn’t do very much but Longoria swung and missed. Rogers hung the next pitch as well and Longoria, ever the dramatist, launched it into the bleachers. It put the Rays comfortably ahead and moved Evan Longoria ahead of Carlos Pena for most home runs by a Ray.