On Sunday night, the Tampa Bay Rays lost again, this time to the Cleveland Indians. The good news, though, was after consecutive days featuring disastrous pitching, the Rays finally received a dynamic performance that can begin getting us excited for 2015 once again.
Chris Archer went 7.2 innings allowing 1 run on 3 hits, striking out 6 while walking 2. A solo homer by Jose Ramirez in the first inning was his only major mistake in an incredible outing. His fastball was overpowering, touching as high as 98.6 MPH in the game, and his slider forced 6 whiffs, but what especially stood out was his changeup. He entered the game having thrown the pitch just 4.96% of the time, but he proceeded to use it for 14 of his 111 offerings, including 10 for strikes. It wasn’t an excellent pitch, but simply the fact that Archer was using it with some confidence made his other two offerings better and helped keep hitters off-balance.
After a pair of disaster outings on August 29th and September 3rd, Chris Archer has rebounded with four straight quality starts, and this was the best of the bunch. He finishes the season having gone 10-8 with a 3.42 ERA and a 167-70 strikeout to walk ratio in 31 starts and a career-high 187 innings pitched. Archer’s ERA may have gone up from his 3.22 mark in his rookie year, but he showed improved command for extended stretches and saw his results hold up even as he threw more innings than before. He is becoming a very good pitcher, and as his changeup from this game showed, he can be even better than this.
Of course, Corey Kluber was even more dominant than Archer in this game, going 8 innings allowing no runs on 5 hits, striking out 11 while walking 2. James Loney had a pair of hits against him while Kevin Kiermaier drilled a triple, but the Rays’ chance were few and they never could break through. Cody tossed a perfect 9th for Cleveland to record his 24th save. Despite it all, though, a 1-0 loss is a great deal better than 11-1, and it was fun to watch Archer finally provide some reason for excitement.