ST. PETERSBURG — Rays rookie Chris Archer knew it wasn't that easy.
Even as he sailed through a record-setting July, the 24-year-old said he realized that success was no more an indicator of future performance than his mediocre results in June.
Friday's 4-1 loss to the struggling Giants proved to be a good example, as Archer pitched relatively well overall but did enough wrong to cost the Rays.
"It's all just a reminder," Archer said. "Continue to work. Stay humble. You're facing major-league hitters. Just because you had a couple scoreless outings it doesn't mean that in one-third of an inning they can't score four runs off you."
It actually was only three runs after two were out in the seventh, but it happened so quickly it might have seemed like a blur: Hunter Pence reached on a chopper, Brandon Belt tripled and Brandon Crawford homered, and in six pitches what had been a 1-1 tie was a deficit the suddenly cool-swinging Rays could not overcome.
As a result, they lost consecutive games for the first time since June 26-28 and dropped to 64-45, but they remained one game behind the Red Sox in the American League East.
The lack of offense was a big part of it as the Rays went 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position, left nine on, and struck out 11 times in the first seven innings against Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner. In the two losses, that's 2-for-16 with 18 left on.
"We've had a bad trend of that recently," manager Joe Maddon said. "We've not been very good with runners in scoring position. I know that's going to come back to us, but for right now that happens to be going on. A little bit of expanding our strike zone in crucial moments."
That has been especially obvious with Evan Longoria, who went down swinging twice with two on in key situations, continuing the most extended slump of his career. Longoria is hitting .173 over his past 25 games and has struck out at least once in a team-record 22 straight games, matching the second longest such streak in the majors this season.
Maddon said he has no plans to drop Longoria from his favored No. 3 spot in the order. He is confident, as Longoria is, that the third baseman is on the verge of breaking out — "really, really close" — citing his last swing on a ground ball in the seventh.
Maddon had a few nits with Archer, suggesting he could have tried to pitch around Belt, who had good swings on him earlier, but the manager was pleased overall with what Archer did. Making the seventh-inning sequence more glaring, Belt had come into the series in a 1-for-19 funk, and Crawford had gone three months without a homer before hitting one Wednesday.
"I cannot denigrate his performance whatsoever; I thought it was outstanding once again," Maddon said. "Those three guys in the seventh inning with two outs and nobody on score three points. I would bet on Archie most of the time right there."
Archer, who hadn't lost since June 18, eight starts ago, said he felt like he "failed to come up with my end" in the seventh, but he felt good overall.
"To me, it didn't seem like it got out of control," he said. "I was making my pitches, in my opinion, and they just were able to put them in play."