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Game 23 preview: Chris Archer vs. Dylan Bundy

Chris Archer takes the hill as the Rays go for their second consecutive series sweep.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Chicago White Sox Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight, Chris Archer and the Rays look aim for their sixth consecutive victory as they close out a short two-game set at Camden Yards in Baltimore, MA.

Baltimore will send Dylan Bundy to the mound, who’ll be looking to build off his stellar start (more on that later) to the 2018 campaign.

Today’s game will be televised on Fox Sports Sun. First pitch is set for 7:05 PM ET.

Starting Pitchers

Chris Archer

Archer has been among the most frequently discussed Rays already this young season. Before the year even began, we had a nomenclature debate on the most appropriate honorific for the 29-year-old; since the season has begun, both Danny Russell and Carl Gonzalez have taken looks at the potential impact of that elusive third pitch. And that was before Danny noticed a potential fourth pitch in his most recent outing.

Outside of the DRB world, FanGraphs All-Star Jeff Sullivan dug into Archer getting pounced on early in the count, and the bright minds over at the Process Report combined all those questions.

Now that you have your Chris Archer syllabus, know that the right-hander had his best outing of the season Friday, holding the Twins to two runs while striking out five in 6 2/3 innings. But he came away with a no-decision. It was his best start of the season thus far.

Archer comes into tonight’s game 1-1 with a 6.59 ERA and 29 punch-outs in 27.1 innings pitched.

Through five starts, he has excelled vs. RHB’s, holding hitters to the tune of .177/.236/.294 from the right side of the plate. He’s struggled against lefties, posting a .362/.431/.702 slash-line from the left side of the plate.

The Orioles have given Archer trouble at times in his career. He possesses a career 4.81 ERA against the club (16 games started), and his 6.69 ERA in six career starts in Camden Yards is the second-highest of any ballpark at which he’s pitched at least five innings.

And while we’re dealing in small samples, his start there almost exactly a year ago (April 24, 2017) was among the most frustrating loss of the last year or so.

All that being said, the Orioles have been the worst offense in all of baseball in 2018 (74 wRC+), and their ranks against fastballs (29th) and sliders (24th) - Archer’s two main offerings - are promising.

Dylan Bundy

The Rays will be facing one of the very best pitchers of 2018 thus far tonight. Bundy, 1-2 with a 1.42 ERA, 2.02 FIP, and 3.22 xFIP in 31.2 innings pitched, has dazzled this season to the tune of the second-highest pitching WAR (1.4) in baseball.

The right-hander was dominant in Friday’s victory over the Indians, striking out nine over six innings of one-run ball.

As Kyle J Andrews described over at our Baltimore-affiliated sister site, Camden Chat, there have been several factors in Bundy’s fast start. His slider is becoming an elite pitch, and his sinker has reemerged as a nice offering to fill out his repertoire.

Bundy has absolutely shut down RHB’s this season, holding hitters to the tune of .094/.172/.151 from the right side of the plate. He’s had difficulty against LHB’s, posting a .318/.371/.446 slash-line against those coming from the left side of the plate.

Speaking of his repertoire, per Brooks Baseball:

Dylan Bundy has thrown 5,141 pitches that have been tracked by the PITCHf/x system between 2012 and 2018, all of them occurring in the MLB Regular Season. In 2018, he has relied primarily on his Fourseam Fastball (92mph) and Slider (82mph), also mixing in a Change (84mph), Sinker (92mph) and Curve (75mph).

Here’s how often he has used those offerings:

And here is how batters have fared against those pitches:

Finally, Bundy has an even smaller sample than Archer when it comes to facing Thursday’s opposition, but he has struggled in his five career starts against the Rays (6.26 ERA). Of course, none of those have come since his 2018 blossoming, and we’re talking about 27.1 innings, so there are grains of salt aplenty.

Starting Lineups

Today’s Lineup

Tampa Bay Rays Baltimore Orioles
Tampa Bay Rays Baltimore Orioles
Denard Span - LF Trey Mancini - LF
C.J. Cron - 1B Jace Peterson - 2B
Carlos Gomez - RF Manny Machado - SS
Brad Miller - DH Adam Jones - CF
Daniel Robertson - 3B Chris Davis - 1B
Joey Wendle - 2B Pedro Alvarez - DH
Wilson Ramos - C Danny Valencia - 3B
Mallex Smith - CF Anthony Santander - RF
Adeiny Hechavarria - SS Caleb Joseph - C
Chris Archer - RHP Dylan Bundy - RHP