The Rays lost on Star Wars day, and it was a game they had no business losing. Chris Archer was sharp, they hit two home runs, and the defense made some big plays. And yet they ended up on the short end of the stick. But if you want to take consolation in anything, hang your hat on point number one above: For maybe the first time all year, Chris Archer was who we thought we was.
Taking An Early Lead
On offense, the Rays put runners on in each of the first four innings against Mike Fiers, but had trouble pushing runs across. A two-out walk from Longoria was wasted in the first, and a two-out double by Souza came to naught in the second. Curt Casali led off the third with a hit-by-pitch but was erased on a double play, and Steve Pearce’s one-out double in the fourth was negated by line drive double play.
The Rays were finally able to break through with two outs in the third, when Brad Miller golfed a curve ball off his shoe tops into his favorite section of the Trop.
Return of the Deadeye
On the hill, Chris Archer was sharp. I mean, he had no-hitter stuff today. The fastball command that has been so often lacking this season was on full display, demonstrated most obviously by first pitch strikes to the first ten Astro hitters. This forced the Astros to be aggressive, which allowed Archer to work in a better slider than he’s shown in most starts, not to mention more than a few nice change ups.
Archie even got the great defensive play you supposedly need to grab a no-no, when Steven Souza made a great diving catch against the first hitter of the game.
The third inning epitomized everything Archer had going for him today, fanning Carlos Gomez looking with an 0-2 fastball after two sliders, getting Tyler White looking at a 3-2 slider, and putting away Jason Castro swinging at a good 1-2 changeup.
Unfortunately, having no-hitter stuff isn’t all you need to deal a no-hitter. In the fourth, the Astros managed back-to-back ground ball singles, followed by a sacrifice fly from Jose Altuve to tie the game at 1-1.
The Astros threatened again in the sixth, putting together back-to-back two-out singles from Marwin Gonzalez and Altuve. Archer worked out of the jam by getting Colby Rasmus to pop to shallow center, leaving him at just 89 pitches through six — including 60 (!) strikes.
In the bottom of the frame, the Rays again decided to forego putting a rally together and just got all the bases at once. This time, it was Evan Longoria off the C-Ring.
This is Why We Can't Have Nice Things
The lead wouldn’t last long. With two outs in the seventh, Carlos Gomez hit a first pitch slider out to center field to tie the game at 2-2. Archer rebounded, retiring Tyler White to end the inning, and then surprisingly came back out for the eighth despite being north of 100 pitches. With Archer more animated than he had been the entire game, he fanned Castro and got a ground out from George Springer before giving up an opposite field single to Marwin Gonzalez. That would end Chris’s night after his highest pitch count of the year at 118 pitches (78 strikes). Erasmo Ramirez came on to finish off the eighth.
And then things went sideways.
After yielding a stolen base to Gonzalez, Erasmo hit Altuve with a 1-2 fastball, then walked Colby Rasmus on five pitches. Up stepped Evan Gattis with a chance to give the Astros the lead.
Gattis would not come through, as his at bat ended with a weak pop out to end the inning. But before that could happen, Ramirez spun an 0-1 breaking ball into the dirt that skipped past Casali, scoring Gonzalez. 3-2 Astros. So if you’re scoring at home, the go-ahead run came around on a single, a hit-by-pitch, a walk, and a wild pitch. Go Rays.
It also closed the book on Chris Archer, leaving him on the hook for the loss. He was charged with three runs over his 7 2/3 innings of work, giving up six hits, while striking out eight and walking no one. Despite being on the short end of the score, it was by far Archer’s best outing of the season.
Luke Gregerson came on for the Astros in the bottom of the eighth. Working a wicked sinker, Gregerson navigated a clean frame, striking out Forsythe, getting Miller to roll over a grounder to second, and forcing Longo to foul out to first.
Dana Eveland came on to pitch the ninth.
No, seriously. Kevin Cash had a bullpen full of guys to pick from, and somehow came to the conclusion that Dana Eveland in the ninth inning of a one-run game was a good idea. Can you guess what happened next? I bet you can.
Eveland gives up a solo HR to Luis Valbuena to lead off the 9th. 4-2 Astros lead.— RaysRadio (@RaysRadio) June 11, 2016
Tyler Sturdevant came on after that and set down the side, working around a two-out walk.
One Last Push
Will Harris came on to close out the game for the Astros, and promptly made it interesting, walking Logan Morrison on four pitches and surrendering a single to left to Steve Pearce. Mikie Mahtook
came on to pinch hit and was called on to bunt. Inexplicably, he pulled back on two perfectly buntable pitches to fall behind 0-2. Even more inexplicably, he then took the next four pitches for balls to draw a walk. Nobody out. Bases loaded. Steven Souza coming up.
- Big swing and a miss.
- Check swing strike two.
- High fly ball to center to score Morrison and sending pinch runner Taylor Motter to third.
4-3, Astros. There was a chance!
That brought Desmond Jennings to the plate with runners on first and third and a chance to tie it. But after being unable to check on a 3-1 pitch outside the zone, Deezy hit a broken bat roller to second on the full count pitch. You had hopes that the broken bat took enough speed off the ball that Jennings could beat out the relay and avoid the double play. But the Astros managed a sharp turn at second and got Jennings by half a step at first, ending the ball game.
Hey, you know what would have been nice to see in that first and third situation? That safety squeeze thing we used to do. Le sigh.
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