Today, five days later, Archer returned without setbacks or days off.
The first inning started with a bang on both sides, with each of the leadoff hitters (Brad Miller and Ben Zobrist, respecitvely) hitting solo homeruns. Archer settled down immediately, but the same could not be said for his opponent Erasmo Ramirez.
The Rays had Joyce follow with a single from a soft liner to right field, Longoria hit a line drive to left, and (after a Myers fielders choice that caught Longoria at second) James Loney blooped to right field to score another run.
Then all was quiet. Yunel and Scott went down swinging as the Rays went down in order for nine batters. Yunel's single in the fourth ended the trend, but the Rays were showing shades of the five-game loss road trip, instead of a new start.
Meanwhile, a ground rule double put runners on the corners in the top of the fourth, and Justin Smoak hit a hard liner toward the middle of the field. Escobar's outreached glove only brushed in contact, and the ball tipped past Zobrist, who was backing up the play. Two runs scored to give Seattle a 3-2 lead.
Chris Archer's slider had been working well all game, but it couldn't stop Brad Miller from adding to that lead to lead off the fifth -- an absolute blast to deep right field.
Miller, the shortstop for Seattle, has only four homeruns on the season, each in two-dinger games.
Archer was also throwing high heat, as caught by Jose Lobaton behind the plate. The rookie started to unravel in the fifth, when a one-out heater high inside to Kyle Seager that might have clipped his helmet -- had the third baseman not ducked and haunched his shoulders high to take the pitch, a scary moment -- then a slider cut into the dirt on a wild pitch that skipped away and advanced the runner to second.
Hickey paid a visit, but Archer still struggled with the zone, and gave up his first walk of the game to Raul Ibanez. With two outs and runners on the corners for Michael Morse, Archer snapped back into the game. Two heaters strong and inside, one just above the zone, and then when everyone expected another devastating Slider, Archer pumped 98 low in the zone to get Moose swinging.
It was a strong effort by Archer to keep the game manageable, and the Rays responded. The following two pitches were just hammered toward the right field fence. Kelly Johnson bounced one at the foot of the wall, and Ben Zobrist clobbered his into the stands, both seemingly no doubters.
Myers made his own crowd-gasping bid for a Rays longball, but it fell at the wall toward deep left center. The Rays had evened the score 4-4.
After a strong showing and only 84 pitches, Maddon gave Archer one more batter than I'd expected, but that's exactly what Maddon does. He lays responsibility on his pitchers to take on just one more batter as often as possible, and today that saw a seven pitch battle, ending with a slider sweeping inside to Smoak, and the switch hitting first baseman singling it the opposite way to left field.
Here the Rays got their first professional look at Wesley Wright, the newly acquired LHRP out of Houston. An eight pitch battle to Dustin Ackley ended with his mostly ineffective fastball low and away, and Ackley lofted it to the center field wall. A triple, another run scored for Seattle.
W.W. followed with a swinging strikeout of Humberto Quintero, a one pitch ground out of red-hot Brad Miller, and another swinging strikeout of Nick Franklin. Both K's ended on Wright's bender of a change up (CONFIRM?)
The Rays put two runners on in the bottom of the frame, with Yunel walking and a Luek Scott single to left field, but Kelly Johnson ended the threat looking at a full count slider down the middle from relief pitcher Perez.
Peralta took over for Wesley, and his fastball was barely into the 90's. The uncertainty of the pitch velocity fooled Seager into a swinging strikeout, while the splitter was dropping sharply into the dirt and skipping away repeatedly. The splitter resulted in an unfavorable count, and missed calls on the curveball walked Kendrys Moralez.
Raul Ibanez followed with an eight pitch at bat for a base hit, which put runners on the corners. The Rays were losing match ups *just so* -- but that's not good enough. Peralta got away with a sharp grounder to Loney that knocked him off his feet, but I wasn't encouraged.
In the bottom of the frame, Joyce and Longoria walked on one out to give the Rays another RISP. Myers fouled some easy fastballs in the zone before striking out on a breaking pitch below the zone, and Loney hit into a fielder's choice to strand the runners.
Jake McGee was throwing up to 99 MPH as he stepped onto the mound, and his first batter worked eight pitches to find a single up the middle. He made up for it with a textbook GIDP to clear the bases, bringing up Brad Miller. He lined one to deep center, that Wil Myers raced to and met for the third out.
With the Rays still down one run, Escobar lined out on one pitch. Promising. Luke Scott walked after getting away with a non-checked swing for ball two, bringing in Jason Bourgeois to pinch run. He nearly swiped second with a great jump, but pinch hitter Sam Fuld made weak contact for a poor hit and run attempt. Jason held at second, and Fuld was out at first.
Two outs and an RISP for Kelly Johnson, and he ground out to second for an easy out.
Fernando Rodney was tasked with holding the score. He fed a steady diet of change ups to Jose Molina. After a full count to Nick Franklin, Yunel picked up the slow grounder up the middle and fired it to first for out number one.
Rodney put a bold change up inside on a 2-2 count to Kyle Seager to catch him looking for the second out, and then caught Morales offering at a change below the zone for out number three.
The Rays hopes at turning their losing streak around were pinned on Zobrist, Joyce, Longoria, and maybe Myers.
Ben Zobrist survived on a checked swing on a curve low and outside on an 0-2 count, and two balls later, Zobrist watched a 95 MPH fastball easily in the zone get caught awkwardly by the catcher Quintero, who was set up toward the opposite batter's box. Fooled him.
Joyce watched a 3-1 count build before fouling to a full count. Strike three called, a curveball landing square in the center of the zone at 76 MPH. Fooled him.
Longoria whiffed on a trailing cutter, foul tipped another, and then got behind the third one. He put a high arc on the pitch, but it fell short of the warning track in center field.
20 hits, 6 walks, and 23 strikouts combined. The losing streak pushes to six.