If last night was another in a long season of frustrating, tough losses then tonight was the exact opposite.
There's virtually nothing negative to say about the way the Rays performed tonight. Every starter either knocked in and/or scored a run. Chris Archer was dominant, and Brandon Gomes pitched the final two innings, allowing the team to rest it's exhausted bullpen. The only way the night could have been better was if Archer had thrown a perfect game.
The 25-year-old righty got off to a rocky start by walking two batters in the first inning, but had his way with the Rangers' lineup from there on, striking out a career high twelve en route to his eighth victory.
His most effective pitch by far was the slider. He threw it 29 times, picking up eight whiffs and eight of his twelve strikeouts.
See those yellow dots clumped together at the bottom right? Swinging strikes on the slider.
Overall he generated eighteen swinging strikes against a Texas team that ranks in the bottom third in baseball in swing percentage.
He had to deal with a man in scoring position in three different innings but allowed only one run to score, via a sac fly. Over the past month he has an ERA of 2.60 and has struck out a batter per inning. It's been amazingly fun to watch this young pitcher learn from mistakes and continue his evolution into the type of frontline starter the Rays need him to be.
I mentioned the offense doing well, and that all started with a Matt Joyce home run to deep right field in the first inning. Sean Rodriguez and Brandon Guyer would add a pair of two-run homers in the second. James Loney added a pair of RBI singles, making up for last night's 0-6 performance.
Let's talk about Joyce. Yes, you have to platoon him against most left handed pitchers, but Joyce's .374 on-base-percentage ranks seventh in the American League. His power isn't where you'd prefer it, but he's been an excellent player for four out of five months of the season. It would make sense to trade him fairly soon, with David DeJesus signed for two more seasons, Wil Myers needing to play every day, and Kevin Kiermaier getting paid substantially less. If so, some team is going to be very pleased next season.
The Rays dodged a bullet when they go for the series victory tomorrow as Yu Darvish, who was set to start, was placed on the disabled list this afternoon. He'll be replaced by Robbie Ross Jr.