On June 20th, 2012 twenty-three year old Chris Archer took the mound at Nationals Park donning a Rays uniform for the first time. The wiry flame-thrower mounted the rubber and immediately fell behind 3-0 to the Nationals’ leadoff hitter Steve Lombardozzi. He would fire the first strike of his career to bring the count to 3-1 and then surrender a double to Lombardozzi, an RBI single to Bryce Harper, and a run scoring grounder to Ryan Zimmerman who reached on an error. By the end of the first, the Nationals were up 3-0 and Chris Archer’s career with the Rays had sputtered to an inauspicious start.
He would toss six innings that afternoon, the final five of which were scoreless. In total, Archer struck out seven, walked one, and gave up one earned run. It was quite the rebound and debut performance, a bright spot in a Rays 3-2 loss.
Seven seasons later, on July 27th, 2018, the twenty-nine year old Chris Archer mounted the rubber at Camden Yards. While he still wore the fresh face of that rookie, he was now a veteran, a clubhouse leader with two All-Star appearances behind him. He tossed six innings, struck out three, and took the loss. The outing bumped his earned run average on the year to an underwhelming 4.31. The loss moved his record to 3-5. Four days later his career with the Rays seemed to have ended with a blockbuster deadline deal to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Over the course of his seven seasons with the Rays, Chris Archer started 177 games, logged 1,063 innings, and struck out 1,146 batters. He won 54 games and lost 68. He featured a devastating slider, a captivating personality, and a swagger that sparked a handful of entertaining moments.
Now, after signing a one year deal with the Rays this offseason, Arch is back! As he reintroduces himself to his new and old teammates alike, there isn't a better time to reintroduce ourselves to the Rays’ former ace with a countdown of his top moments in a Rays uniform (thus far).
#5: RBI single on the 4th of July
There are few things more entertaining in baseball than a pitcher stepping into the box and trying to put the bat on the ball. Chris Archer did just that on July 4th, 2017 against John Lester. With the Rays up 3-1 in the top of the 4th, Archer stepped up to the plate with a chance to help himself. After showing bunt, he grounded a 2-2 fastball through the right side of the infield scoring Adeiny Hechavarria. It was his first career hit and run batted in.
#4: Major League Debut
As I previously mentioned, Chris Archer first took the mound for the Rays in 2012 as a twenty three year old with a live fastball and electric slider. While he struggled in his first inning of work, surrendering three runs, the future ace provided Rays fans a glimpse of his potential. Following the first inning, Archer rebounded with five shutout innings. In total, he fanned seven and walked one. The Rays lost 3-2 and Archer took the loss in his debut, but it was clear that his future was bright.
#3: 15 Strikeout game vs. the Halos
As over 28,000 fans settled into their seats at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on the June 2nd, 2015 Chris Archer warmed in the visitor’s bullpen. Minutes later, Archer took the mound and pitched arguably the best game of his career. Eight innings and a whopping fifteen strikeouts later, Archer’s night was over. It was a masterpiece. The game’s best hitter, Mike Trout, struck out three times. Five other batters struck out twice. The only blemish on his otherwise spotless performance was a fourth inning bomb from the future hall of fame first baseman, Albert Pujols. The game moved his record on the year to 6-4 and his earned run average to 2.01.
#2: A dominant 4 game stretch
From July 9th, 2013 through July 27th, 2013 you would be hard pressed to find a better pitcher in all of baseball. Chris Archer, in the midst of his sophomore campaign, put together a dominating stretch of four starts that he has yet match since:
4 starts. 4 wins. 2 complete game shutouts. 31 innings pitched. 15 hits. 1 Earned Run.
His ERA dropped from 4.17 to 2.39. Batters slashed .146/.198/.194.
Archer’s pair of shutouts came against the Astros and Yankees.
#1: Chris Archer’s 1,000th strikeout
Only three pitchers in Rays history have ever struck out at least 1,000 opposing hitters: James Shields, David Price, and Chris Archer. Archer’s 1000th K came against the Blue Jay’s Miguel Montero in August, 2017. He finished his first stint with the Rays with 1,146 punch outs. From 2015-2017, Archer tallied 734 strikeouts.
James Shields holds the all-time Rays record with 1,250, meaning that with 105 strikeouts this season, Archer would hold the record.
Here’s to many more great Chris Archer moments in 2021. Welcome back Arch!