Chris Archer was fantastic Friday night when the Rays needed him most. Coming off a series loss to Boston, the Rays needed to take advantage of playing the struggling Twins. After lasting just 7.2 innings combined over his last two starts Archer threw six shutout innings last night, striking out seven and not walking a soul.
The only real trouble he'd face came in the fifth inning with the Rays leading by two. With one out and men on first and second Archer faced lefty hitting Clete Thomas and Eduardo Escobar. He'd need just 10 pitches total to strike out the duo, getting each to go down looking at a changeup low in the zone. Thomas and Escobar aren't exactly All-Stars, but it was nice to see Archer have success with that pitch. He uses it the least of his arsenal and nearly exclusively against lefties, but it gets swung at and put in play the most. Being able to locate that pitch down in the zone will help Archer go a long way.
Archer was pulled after throwing only 87 pitches. His 166 innings pitched between Triple-A and MLB are a career high. Resting his arm when possible is a good idea. Jake McGee, Joel Peralta and Fernando Rodney pitched the last three innings, each throwing 13 pitches on Friday the 13th.
The offense didn't exactly come alive, but they struck first and the game never was in jeopardy. They were actually 4-9 with runners in scoring position. There was opportunity to blow the game open in the seventh inning after back to back doubles by Jose Molina and Yunel Escobar lead off the inning and David DeJesus followed with a single which moved Escobar to third.. Ben Zobrist then tried to bunt (why?!) and popped up into a double play. DeJesus was then picked off trying to steal second. I know he's a good base runner, but that doesn't always equal a good base stealer. He has 62 steals against 57 caught stealings for his career. Stop it, DDJ.
Desmond Jennings and James Loney drove in the Rays other two runs, each with two outs. The win, coupled with the Yankees loss, increased the Rays lead to 1.5 games over Cleveland, 2 over New York, 2.5 over Baltimore and 3.5 over Kansas City. Oakland beating Texas puts the Rays just one game out of the first Wild Card spot, too. Matt Moore takes on rookie Andrew Albers this evening.