Chris Archer's slider was alive this afternoon, coming in harder than is his standard but wiping out the Detroit Tigers left and right. He used it to lead the game with a K, and then strike out the side in the second inning en route to an incredible performance.
Down on their luck Detroit sent out Justin Verlander to face off against the Rays' young ace in a fitting match up, as Archer's Fastball-Slider combination had all the reports of vintage Verlander.
Of all the games this year to not be televised, today's was a masterclass in pitching between Chris Archer and Justin Verlander, resulting in a double perfect game through the first half of the game.
Verlander would surrender his perfect game with a change up, left up-and-in to Asdrubal Cabrera in the bottom of the fifth, resulting in a batting practice pitch that Cabby took yard for his sixth home run on the season.
We nearly didn't have Cabrera in today's game, as he was scheduled to rehab his hamstring through the Tigers' series, but he turned out to be the determining factor in ending Verlander's perfect game, preserving Archers, and then losing the Rays' lead in the seventh.
Two very important plays contributed to Archer's great performance, starting with a diving stop by Asdrubal Cabrera in the fourth that he was able to fire off to first base quite unexpectedly. Instincts leapt Cabby to his feet, and the throw was close enough to James Loney to scoop out of the dirt for a great defensive play.
In the sixth inning, after Chris Archer got a first pitch pop out to burst-logo in center, a full count flyball was sent soaring to deep center field. Both plays required heads up defense by Kevin Kiermaier, and the latter required a next level performance.
Ranging all the way back to the warning track, Kiermaeir put everything behind his stretch for the ball, going headlong into the fence. At the last moment, he was able to whip his head back before a hard crash, but he held on for the out.
.@KKiermaier39: Outlaw, highway robber. WATCH: http://t.co/OF6XojnX2e pic.twitter.com/DXg78YsEK1— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) July 29, 2015
With a perfect game in tact with 70 pitches and 10 strikeouts through six innings, Kevin Cash replaced John Jaso in left field with the quality glove of Brandon Guyer. Unfortunately, Archer would lose his perfect game in the seventh.
The seventh inning was led with a great play by Longoria to track down a difficult hopping ground ball, but the following play was a perfectly placed infield hit by short stop Jose Iglesias. Cabrera fielded it deep from his position and the throw to first base was true, but Iglesias beat it out. It was a disappointing way to lose the perfect game bid, to say the least.
It was the deepest any Rays pitcher has ever taken a perfect game, including Matt Garza's no hitter of the Tigers five years ago this month, also at Tropicana Field, thrown by a Rays pitcher wearing the No. 22. Everything about the day felt kismet, but it wasn't meant to be.
Archer then couldn't escape when Asdrubal Cabrera booted the following play, with Iglesias's single surely stuck on his mind. Cabrera has been, bar none, the best short stop in the American League to date but couldn't turn a simple double play for his second error on the year.
Kiermaier tracked down a fly ball for the second out, but with two on J.D. Martinez shot one to left on a slider that caught a hair too much of the zone, scoring the man from second base that never should have been there.
Tie ball game. Castellanos then smacked a hard line drive that Cabrera put a glove to - I mean the ball hit him square in the mitt - but he couldn't close the glove. It's not a play you'd expect him to make, but getting the glove there sure made it feel like a possibility.
Either way, 2-1 Tigers.
Cabrera's failed double play added not only those two runs, but also cost Chris Archer 15 pitches, pushing his count to 101 after seven, and requiring the bullpen for a game that could have been a complete game shut out.
The Rays then had their own Castellanos moment when Souza led the bottom of the frame with a hard hit pitch to Cespedes, who couldn't hold on to the caught line drive. Trying to take advantage of the free bag, Souza attempted a swipe of second but was unfortunately caught. Longo's ground out was soft enough to have been a double play either way, though.
No matter, the Rays were ready to step up. James Loney singled on a line drive over the infield with two outs, and Logan Forsythe did the same to put two on, two out. Again the game came back down to Asdrubal Cabrera, and to help things along, Cash replaced Loney with Tim Beckham for faster legs.
It wouldn't matter. Cabrera struck out swinging on a curveball placed middle of the zone.
That was all the seventh!
Steve Geltz replaced Archer in the eighth, Brad Boxberger pitched the ninth, and the Rays had the top of the order up for the final frame. Guyer would pop out, however, followed by a Steven Souza Jr. strikeout at the hands of Joakim Soria.
As the final out, Evan Longoria was hit by a pitch, bringing up Tim Beckham. The kid was swinging hard at a fastball up in the zone, then laid off strike two called outside in the exact same place ball one had been called. A curveball to the same location felled him in the end, swinging and missing, and the game that could have ended in a raucous celebration put the Rays one game back below .500.
- More than 28,000 were in attendance for Parks and Rec day, the largest crowd since Opening Day.
- Souza Jr. dove for a play in the ninth inning after a delayed jump for his run at the ball. He came up nursing his left wrist, and injury he's already been dealing with the season, but stayed in the game.
- A lot of people will want to know how Curt Casali performed as the designated hitter after back-to-back two HR performances. In the third inning he nearly knocked a sharply hit line drive to right field deep, but the baseball fell short and was tracked down by J.D. Martinez.
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