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Tampa Bay Rays Game 131: Archer Fights Himself and Wins

By Robbie Knopf
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The Tampa Bay Rays’ offense stepped up on Monday night against the Baltimore Orioles, but the story so often has been that their bats have found themselves right as the arms were falling apart. That easily could have transpired in this game as well. Chris Archer dealt with some bad fortune, particularly when Joey Butler dropped Steve Clevenger‘s flyball for a two-base error, but he can’t call himself unlucky in a game where he received this play behind him.

Instead, his primary opponent throughout his start was himself. With two outs and nobody on in the second inning, Archer got behind the impatient Jonathan Schoop 2-0 and then gave up a double on a fastball in the wrong spot. Then, against the weak-hitting Ryan Flaherty, Archer perplexingly threw five straight secondary pitches–sliders and changeups–after a first-pitch heater as he walked him. Too many of his sliders were non-competitive pitches down, causing him to struggle even against the bottom of the Orioles’ order. Luckily he was able to get Caleb Joseph to line out to escape the frame.

Archer then got past two baserunners in the third, but he found himself at 66 pitches already in the game. The fourth inning was even tougher after Butler made the error to begin the frame. Archer rebounded to strike out Schoop and Flaherty, both on much better sliders, but he then walked Joseph as he missed twice each with his breaking ball and fastball. He then got ahead of Manny Machado 1-2 only to slip on a weak groundball back to the mound, allowing Machado to beat out the throw. But once again, he came through when it mattered most, striking out Gerardo Parra with a nasty slider.

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Archer finished the fourth inning at 92 pitches, but he finally found himself in the last two innings as he faced the minimum six Orioles with the help of a double play. Archer finished with fine numbers in his start–6 shutout innings giving up 4 hits and 3 walks while striking out 6–but that doesn’t do justice to just how much he struggled and how critical it was that he was able to survive nonetheless. Archer left too many fastballs waist-high and didn’t have his sharp slider for much of the game, but between a few more changeups than usual and quite a bit of poise, he battled to give the Tampa Bay Rays exactly the type of outing that they needed from their ace.

Archer kept the Orioles off the board, but it certainly worked out that the Rays offense got to Wei-Yin Chen when Matt Andriese gave up 3 runs in the seventh inning. Tim Beckham started the scoring with a sac fly and later drilled a solo homer while Asdrubal Cabrera slammed a two-run shot and Evan Longoria added a blast of his own. The only unfortunate thing was that Logan Forsythe didn’t homer–he finished 3 for 4 with a triple, a double, a single, and 2 runs scored.

It was great to see Cabrera and Forsythe continue their recent success and the hope is that Longoria is starting to get hot as well. Beckham, meanwhile, will be an interesting player off the bench and in a platoon role in September. It is worth noting that his home run came not against the lefty Chen, but off of righty Brad Brach. Beckham showed a flair for the dramatic earlier in the year, and if the Rays are going to go on a run in the season’s last month, a few more big hits from him would certainly help.

Alex Colome was dominant in the eighth inning after needing James Loney‘s help to escape the eighth on Sunday, striking out 2 in a perfect frame, before Brad Boxberger worked around a walk in the ninth for his AL-leading 33rd save. The win takes the Rays to 65-66 on the season, keeping them 4 games back in the AL Wild Card. They will hope to keep gaining ground at 7:05 PM tomorrow as they send Drew Smyly to the mound against Chris Tillman.

Next: Tampa Bay Rays: Daniel Nava’s Recovery Process Is Well Underway

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