The Tampa Bay Rays will have two representatives on this year’s American League All-Star team: starting pitcher Chris Archer and closer Brad Boxberger. The Rays had just one All-Star (David Price) in 2014 after having at least two each year from 2008 to 2013. Their franchise-high of five actually came in one of their less successful seasons, 2009, when Jason Bartlett, Carl Crawford, Evan Longoria, Carlos Pena, and Ben Zobrist all earned places on the All-Star roster.
Another fun fact is that the Rays have only had three All-Star Game starters at any position ever. All three came in 2010, when David Price started on the mound, Evan Longoria got the nod at third base, and Carl Crawford began the game in left field. Chris Archer will hope to become the fourth after a tremendous first half. This season, Archer is 9-5 with a 2.18 ERA, striking out a league-leading 141 batters while walking just 28 in 115.2 innings pitched. Archer also leads the AL in WHIP at 0.951 while being tied for the league lead with 18 starts.
Archer’s competition for the start are Dallas Keuchel (10-3, 2.03), Sonny Gray (9-3, 2.09), David Price (8-2, 2.54), Chris Sale (6-4, 2.87), and Felix Hernandez (10-5, 3.02). Luckily for Archer, Keuchel is set to start for the Houston Astros on July 11th, making him unable to appear in the All-Star Game on July 14th, while Gray is dealing with a severe stomach bug that also puts his ability to participate in doubt. In any event, Archer has 2 more starts than Gray and it is beating him in strikeouts by a large margin. He is the favorite to start the game.
In any event, Archer’s All-Star selection is just the latest acknowledgment of his development as a pitcher. He has done a better job staying focused and not getting too emotional on the mound, and the result has been more consistent command and almost constant domination of opposing hitters. Archer’s fastball reaches the high-90’s while his slider is one of the best secondary pitches in baseball. And because the Tampa Bay Rays extended him prior to 2014, they have him under team control through 2021. This season is only the beginning.
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Boxberger, meanwhile, has endured some rough patches to post an ERA almost exactly where it was last season. Overall, he is 4-4 with a 2.48 ERA, a 45-16 strikeout to walk ratio, and 20 saves in 36 relief appearances and 32.2 innings pitched. He has allowed a few too many walks (4.4 per 9 innings) and home runs (1.1 per 9), but he has been strong on the whole, especially considering it’s his first season as a closer. This year has been far from perfect from him, but it is exciting that he was named an All-Star and hopefully it is a sign of things to come as much as it is a reflection of his solid first-half numbers.
It would be nice if the Rays could sneak another All-Star onto the roster after players are replaced (the best candidate is probably Logan Forsythe), but there is ample reason to be proud of Archer and Boxberger even if they are the only team representatives in the Midsummer Classic. Congratulations to both of them, and while the All-Star Game nod is the first for each of them, the Rays are hoping that both of them will be becoming regulars to the festivities in the coming years.