When a pitcher is as good as Chris Archer is, as often as he is, they become difficult to write about. What was special about his seven-inning, one-run outing? He only struck out eleven batters. That's way fewer than a team record.
He allowed six hits and no walks. That's almost one man on base per inning. Totally ordinary.
He threw 53 fastballs, and they averaged over 96 mph, but there weren't a ton of whiffs on the fastball. He threw 54 sliders got a strike with the pitch 72% of the time, and 16 swinging strikes (30% of the time). But does he have a third pitch?
Sort of. Six changeups, five strikes, no whiffs, who cares.
Let's review his struggles, and in doing so, praise him.
In the bottom of the fourth inning, Seth Smith lead off with a double. He went out to get an elevated fastball on the outside portion of the plate and hooked it into the alley in right-center field. A swinging bunt from Nelson Cruz found the perfect slow zone on the infield and put runners at the corners with no outs.
No matter. Archer struck out both Kyle Seager and Mark Trumbo, both on three pitches. Then Bobby Wilson caught Nelson Cruz going half-heartedly in motion, threw to second, and trapped him in a rundown to end the inning (the run from third was not able to come home before the Rays infielders applied the tag).
Finally, in the seventh inning, the Mariners got to Archer for an unearned (maybe) run. Nelson Cruz singled to lead off, and Kyle Seager reached on an error when a hard grounder ate up Nick Franklin at second base. But Archer coaxed a weak fly ball from Trumbo, and struck out Logan Morrison. He would have been out of the inning, but instead he had to face one more batter. Brad Miller singled up the middle. Archer did strike out Willie Bloomquist to finish off his night before handing the ball to Jake McGee and Kevin Jepsen.
The Rays Offense
While Archer was busy holding the Mariners to one run, the Rays scored two, and then added a third immediately after Archer left the game for good.
Jake Elmore, leading off the game for the injury-depleted Rays, worked a five-pitch walk, and Joey Butler moved him to second with a single. Logan Forsythe, batting cleanup, sent a line drive up the middle to plate the first run.
It stayed that way until the seventh inning, when Mikie Mahtook grabbed a fastball and took it over the wall in spacious left-center field. The rookie now has two major league hits, and both of them are home runs.
Finally, in the eighth inning, Bobby WIlson grounded to short, but Miller, clearly worried about Wilson's speed, airmailed the throw, allowing Wilson to motor to second. Evan Longoria pinch ran, proving that he hasn't died of his wrist injury, and was brought home on a sac fly by David DeJesus.
Some other notes:
- The Evan Longoria pinch run in the eighth brought a bout a slew of defensive changes in the ninth. Kevin Kiermaier in for DeJesus in center field. Mahtook moves from center to left. Rene Rivera moves from first base to catcher. Franklin moves from shortstop to first base. Asdrubal Cabrera replaces Longoria and plays first. That's five defensive changes. I'm sure it's not a record, but it's the most I remember seeing.
- Mike Montgomery looked like a major-league pitcher to me. The fastball is not impressive, but the changeup sure moves, and the curve is big-time. He was surely helped by a Rays offense currently dealing with more injuries than it can handle, and I'm not sure yet if he's a good major-league pitcher, but he's here, and so far he belongs.
- With Rene Rivera playing first base and Bobby Wilson catching, it fell to the third catcher to warm up the pitcher when Wilson needed some time to get his gear back on after making the last out of the inning. And the third catcher is, apparently, Kevin Cash.
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