We’re always talking about how pitchers are far worse when they go through a lineup a third time. Starting pitchers are less effective against hitters the more they see them. The stats tell us to pull the starter after two times through a lineup.
That didn’t happen today.
Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash earned his paycheck when he chose to let his ace Chris Archer stay in and face the young New York Yankees slugger Gary Sanchez for a third time. Archer was approaching 100 pitches on the day and looking noticeably less sharp. Oh, and the bases were loaded, for a guy that hit .300 and 20 homeruns in less than half a season last year as a rookie.
As Sanchez walked up to the plate with the bases juiced Chris let his manager in the dugout know with one look from the mound what he wanted. His body language said, “I made this mess. Let me own it. Don’t give this to someone else.”
And Cash allowed it. And it was amazing for baseball.
Regardless of the outcome, leaving Archer in made for an incredible moment, and it came on Opening Day in front of a sell out crowd on national television.
To digress a bit: Chris Archer was pitching with confidence in this, his third consecutive Opening Day start. The undisputed ace of the Rays staff had a tough second inning, where he reached 21 pitches, but he responded with a 9 pitch third and successfully made it through six innings with just two runs scored.
Archer's slider was sharp, varying speeds to sneak a quick slider in the back door, challenging batters with fastball/slider sequences at a standard speed, and even taking some heat off to add some break on his signature pitch, but the story of the day was Archer's resurgent change up.
But back to the 7th inning: On Archer’s 106th pitch, Gary Sanchez sent a blooper that fell just foul. After a long wait, the 107th pitch was up and in to bring it to a 2-2 count. Archer sent a 90 mph fastball into the zone, but Sanchez swung over it, making weak contact and grounding to the shortstop. On the 107th pitch of Opening Day, Chris Archer was able to work his way out of trouble.