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Spring Game 10: Ryan Howard’s HR Downs Chris Archer, Rays

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Chris Archer looked electric on Friday afternoon, with his changeup being the most impressive part. A change with dynamic late fade struck out Chase Utley in the first inning, and he also had Ryan Howard just out in front for another K in the second frame. Through three innings, he had allowed no runs on 2 hits, striking out 3 while walking none.

However, Archer had not yet reached his pitch limit, so he also came out for the fourth inning. His results weren’t good. Utley drilled a line drive single before Howard took advantage of a hanging changeup from Archer to drill a two-run home run. The blast turned a 1-0 Tampa Bay Rays lead into a 2-1 deficit, and that proved to be the final as the Philadelphia Phillies beat the Rays.

It has to be frustrating for Archer to see his outing end the way it did, and the game was a little bit too reminiscent of his poor outings from last season. Archer’s stuff is always electric, but one bad inning too often did him in. On the other hand, Archer was throwing his changeup far more often than he would have in a real game and looked dominant with it for an entire time through the order. Archer can’t complain too much about that.

The Rays scored their only run off Joely Rodriguez in the first inning. Asdrubal Cabrera made it second base after Phillies second baseman Cesar Hernandez threw the ball away on a double play attempt. That brought up Evan Longoria with two outs and a runner in scoring position, and Longoria delivered an RBI single.

I’m not sure if we can call a hit “clutch” in the first inning of a spring training game, but Rays fans would love to see Longoria come up with more hits like that once the games start counting. Longoria also singled again in the sixth inning to cap a 2-for-3 day that raised his batting average to .286 this spring. Even though that means so little, it is always nice when Longoria’s average looks reasonable.

The Rays had just two other hits on the day, one each from James Loney and Nick Franklin. Franklin also hustled down the line to beat out a grounder after Hernandez bobbled it. It went down as Hernandez’s second error of the day, but it easily could have been just a 4-3 groundout if Franklin hadn’t run hard. Franklin has some speed, and it was nice to see him using it.

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Back to the pitchers, Enny Romero retired both batters he faced, striking out 1. I was surprised that he was often in the high-80’s with his fastball, but he did throw some decent changeups and breaking balls. On the negative side, he may have tipped a couple of changeups by slowing his arm action. Then, after Everett Teaford worked out of trouble to toss 1.2 shutout innings and Dylan Floro got Darin Ruf to line out, Mike Montgomery and Grayson Garvin both looked sharp to end the game.

Montgomery wasn’t throwing overly hard, mostly staying 91-92 MPH with his fastball, but he spotted it well to make up for that. Montgomery touched 95 MPH in the Arizona Fall League in 2013, and it will be interesting to see where his velocity will end up if the Rays more permanently unleash him in shorter stints. He also showed some nice horizontal movement on his slider, which looked almost exactly like his fastball out of his hand.

Finally, Garvin threw even softer, ranging from 87-91 MPH with his fastball, but he showed good movement and his command was nearly flawless. He was dotting the edges of the strike zone, and Bobby Wilson did a nice job framing his pitches to help him garner a pair of looking strikeouts. He also dropped in a few breaking balls in the zone for strikes. Everything about Garvin screams “advanced college lefty” and the question will be whether he can stay healthy.

The lack of offense from the Rays was frustrating in this game, but it was nice to see Chris Archer (for his first three innings), Mike Montgomery, and Grayson Garvin all pitching well. The Rays will take on the Baltimore Orioles tomorrow at 1:05 PM in a game that will be broadcast on 620 WDAE and also have an Orioles broadcast for MLB.TV subscribers.

Next: Why Boog Powell, Daniel Robertson for Rays' First Cuts?

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