BOSTON — Chris Archer went into Wednesday's game against the Red Sox looking to quiet talk — most of which he felt had little merit though some comedic value — about his poor start to the season.
Instead he only increased the level of conversation — and raised more questions — with another rough outing in the Rays' 7-3 loss.
And he's not exactly sure what to do about escaping the worst skidof his pro career except keep believing he will improve.
"It's really about not trying to do too much. I've said that since 2012 whenever I first got here, and now is the true test,'' Archer said in the quiet clubhouse.
"One outing is easier to shake than the stretch that I've had. But I believe in myself. And next time out, same thing — plan on filling up the strike zone a little bit more. But in those situations, just trusting myself and letting it play as opposed to trying to do too much.''
What he has been doing in four starts hasn't been working, evidenced by his 0-4 record and 7.32 ERA.
On Wednesday, Archer failed to get through the fifth inning, allowing six runs on eight hits and three walks and striking out six while throwing 84 pitches, 48 strikes.
For the season, he has thrown just 192/3 innings but allowed 41 baserunners — 30 hits and 11 walks. His batting average against is .345. His WHIP — walks and hits per inning pitched — is 2.08.
And, for whatever connection can be made to the end of last season, Archer extended his winless streak to 10 starts, dropping to 0-7, 6.39 since an Aug. 31 victory at Baltimore. His preference is on team wins; the Rays are 2-8 in those games.
Archer says the problem is with pitch execution, that there's nothing wrong with his arm or anything else physically and his mechanics and delivery are fine. Also, that his velocity, which was down a bit early, is fine.
Manager Kevin Cash agreed with that assessment, saying, "He might be just in a little bit of a rut. And that's okay, everybody goes through these ruts in their season and their career.''
Whatever the cause, Archer said, "I just have to be better, period.''
While Archer continues to point to the mystifying absence of his top-notch slider as the problem, Cash said the lack of fastball command is the bigger issue as it puts Archer in hitter's counts.
As proof: Archer threw first-pitch strikes to only eight of the 23 batters.
"To me it goes back to the fastball and being able to establish it and show that he can throw that where he needs to throw it and give hitters a thought on two different pitches to decipher from rather than one,'' Cash said.
Archer was in trouble from the start Wednesday, allowing three runs in facing the first four Boston batters.
He fell behind leadoff man Mookie Betts 3-and-0 and walked him on five pitches, went from 0-and-2 to 2-and-2 on Dustin Pedroia and gave up a single, gave up an 0-and-2 RBI single to Xander Bogaerts then fell behind David Ortiz and surrendered a well-struck double to center that scored two.
Seventeen pitches, three runs on three hits, no outs.
He allowed two more in the second, on a Betts homer, then another RBI double to Ortiz in the fifth.
The Red Sox tend to pose problems for him anyway, as he has beaten them once — in his first try, Sept. 19, 2012 — in 12 starts, which didn't help.
And he wasn't their only problem on another chilly night.
Archer's performance wasn't the only problem for the Rays.
No. 2 hitter Logan Morrison continued his immense struggle, his 0-for-3 leaving him 2-for-40 for the season with 17 strikeouts.
Catcher Hank Conger was behind the plate for two more stolen bases — making it 46 straight steals against him going back to last season — and two wild pitches.
And the only real offensive highlight was Corey Dickerson, who had a homer, his fourth, and a double.
Until Archer, who emerged as an ace and an All-Star last season, returns to form, the focus will remain on his struggles, the first Ray to take a loss in his first four games.
"I'm going to continue to work hard and get better every day, and I really trust and believe that I'll get past this,'' Archer said. "It's a tough stretch. … Nobody said it's going to be easy. I'm going to continue to believe in myself. And my teammates continue to believe in me.
"It's going to be better.''