Since 2008, starting pitching has been the strength of this team. For a majority of the this season we've seen the rotation struggle through performance and injury. Everything seems to be clicking over their recent run of success and tonight was no different as Chris Archer toed the rubber.
The young right-hander threw just 84 pitches over his six innings of work, allowing one run on three hits while not allowing a walk. He was surprised to have his night end so early, but the Rays were up just three runs and the Twins had hit the ball hard all night, though they mostly turned into outs. Also, Joe Maddon wanted to see Alex Torres work two days in a row out of the bullpen for the first time this season. Had the Rays lead been larger Archer would have most certainly gone longer.
This was the first start of Archer's career where he did not allow a walk. Walks have been the bugaboo for Archer throughout his career, so it was encouraging to see him locate his pitches so well. It sounds simple enough for a pitcher, but he was able to hit the catcher's glove all night, and missing to the side he was aiming at when he did happen to go off target. The Twins only had a man in scoring position twice against Archer, and once was by his own doing after an errant pickoff throw to first allowed Brian Dozier to advance to third. He'd score on a sacrifice fly by Ryan Doumit. The Twins may be a bad team, but if Archer locates his pitches the rest of the season like he did tonight, the opponent won't matter much.
All of the Rays runs came in the fourth inning with two outs. After walks by Desmond Jennings and Luke Scott to leadoff the inning, Ben Zobrist and Evan Longoria failed to do any damage, though a wild pitch advanced both runners. James Loney then drew a walk after falling behind 0-2, and Matt Joyce followed with a two-run single to center. Kelly Johnson would follow with a two-run double to left-center. Even though it didn't knock in any runs, Loney's at bat was the most important of the inning. Who know if the Rays score any runs without it.
Torres, Jake McGee, and Fernando Rodney combined for three scoreless innings of relief. Coming into tonight's game, over the past 30 days the Rays bullpen is tied for the third highest WAR, has the fifth lowest ERA, and fifth highest K/9 in all of baseball. The bullpen struggled out of the gate, but they've been a tremendous strength of late.