Chris Archer may not have been the Tampa Bay Rays’ originally scheduled Opening Day starter, but he is a true ace. There is no longer any doubt about that. Archer followed up his 12 strikeouts in his matchup against Felix Hernandez in his last start by setting his career-high–and tying the Rays’ team record–with 15 K’s in eight dominant innings against the Seattle Mariners.
Archer allowed an Albert Pujols solo home run in the fourth inning, but that was the only quibble we can have about his outing. He went 8 innings allowing 1 run on 6 hits, striking out 15 while walking none. That is absolutely nuts, and he is capable of carving out a lineup like that in any of his starts. Archer stuck exclusively with his fastball and slider until he mixed in a few changeups at the tail end of his outing, and when he can command both offerings like he did in this game, he can be a two-pitch pitcher all he wants.
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Archer was hitting his spots with his fastball down in the zone and elevating it to get strikeouts and set up his slider. Archer was varying the velocity on the breaking ball from 86 MPH to 92 MPH, using the slower pitches for strikes earlier in the count and the harder ones to put hitters away. Archer’s slider is so special because he can manipulate it in so many different ways and can throw it with confidence at any point in at-bats. In this game, we saw him do everything from take advantage of the umpire’s willingness to call strikes up in the zone to getting such sharp movement into the dirt that he got a swing-and-miss yet Rene Rivera still couldn’t handle it.
Logan Forsythe started the scoring for the Tampa Bay Rays with a two-run home run off of C.J. Wilson, and Archer never let that lead slip away. Wilson was locked in for a while after that, but the Rays pulled away in the sixth inning when Jake Elmore drilled a line drive just out of the reach of Kole Calhoun for a two-run single before Asdrubal Cabrera added an RBI base hit. Forsythe finished 1 for 2 with 2 walks, 2 RBI, and 2 runs scored while Cabrera went 2 for 4 with a stolen base an RBI and a run scored. Rene Rivera also had an RBI single in the ninth.
The 6-1 win was a great rebound for the Rays after their rough series opener against the Angels on Monday as Archer was great and the offense did a better job seizing opportunities. The Rays will hope to take two out of three from the Angels at 10:05 PM EST tomorrow night as Nate Karns heads to the hill against Hector Santiago.