Rays Game 43: Chris Archer, Bullpen Combine For Shutout

By Drew Jenkins

Watch out Major League Baseball: the Tampa Bay Rays starting rotation is finally beginning to heat up. Chris Archer became the latest Rays starter to bounce back from a poor start to the season with his 5.2 scoreless inning performance on Friday night. The Rays are now 19-24, but are only 4.5 games out of first place after Friday’s 3-0 win over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

If you ever want to see a perfect example of dominating stuff, look no further than Archer’s start. His slider was possibly the best it has ever been, and that is saying a lot for a pitch that is among the best in the league. His fastball also seemed to have extra life on it. At times he commanded the pithes perfectly, but the reason that he only lasted 5.2 innings is because of his continued inconsistency in locating his pitches. That led to 5 walks for Archer in this outing, but he made up for it by allowing just 2 hits and striking out 5. Definitely a performance that he can build on.

Behind Archer, the bullpen was great, which is encouraging after Thursday night’s blunders. Juan Carlos Oviedo was the first on in relief and finished off the 6th inning with a groundout. Jake McGee came on to once again throw a scoreless inning, something we’re becoming used to. Then, Rays fans that were still up watching the game got a bit nervous. The Rays’ two struggling veteran relievers, Joel Peralta and Grant Balfour, pitched the 8th and 9th innings. However, they both threw scoreless innings and Balfour earned his 8th save of the year. Pretty darn good performance overall from the Rays pitching staff.

Yunel Escobar started the scoring for the Rays in the 5th inning with a solo home run, and it turned out to be all that they needed. The Rays did add two more insurance runs, though, the first in the 7th when James Loney drove in Evan Longoria, and the second in the 8th when Longoria drove in Desmond Jennings.

Three runs on six hits isn’t special, but it was a classic Rays win as the offense did just enough to back a strong pitching performance. Escobar led the way with his 3-3 performance that included an intentional walk. Loney, Longoria, and Jennings would all provide a single hit each to cap off the offensive production. Also of note is that Cole Figueroa made his big league debut tonight, though he went hitless in just one at-bat after entering as a pinch-hitter. Overall, a good win for a Rays team that needs to string a few of them together.

The Rays and Angels will be back in action for game 3 of the 4 game series tomorrow at 9:05 ET. Cesar Ramos and C.J. Wilson are the scheduled pitchers. Be sure to come back to RCG tomorrow for the Rays news and analysis that you need.