Friday, April 20, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Archer gives up four home runs as Rays lose to Orioles

BALTIMORE — The chilly, if not officially cold, weather that gripped Camden Yards on Friday night is supposed to make life, and baseball, more difficult for hitters, the sting that shoots through their hands a painful price for a mis-struck ball.

That advantage would have seemed to be of considerable benefit for Rays starter Chris Archer, given his standard combination of high-octane fastball and hard-biting slider.

But Archer did not seem right, and the results went considerably wrong, as he allowed a career-high four home runs while working only five innings in a 6-1 loss to the Orioles.

"Overall, I just didn't execute," Archer said. "There's going to be nights where you don't have everything clicking. But you definitely want to do a better job for your team than I did tonight."

In what has been a disappointing start to his season of grand expectations after his 2015 breakthrough, Archer is 0-2 with a 7.20 ERA and has lasted only five innings in each game.

In Sunday's season opener against the Blue Jays, the problem was primarily fastball command, and he settled in after a rough first inning. But he never seemed to be in a groove Friday, his slider lacking its usual bite and the velocity on his fastball somewhat inconsistent, at least on the stadium gun.

He allowed 10 hits (two shy of his career high) and two walks, and struck out five, throwing 97 pitches, only 60 for strikes, with one bouncing.

The worst inning was his last. He allowed three homers in a span of five batters and 11 pitches, and was hit and knocked down by a line drive that he blocked with the back of his glove hand.

Jonathan Schoop, Nolan Reimold and Manny Machado tattooed the balls that went out of the park, Matt Wieters the ball that struck his left hand. Archer insisted he was fine and stayed in to finish the inning. Chris Davis homered in the second.

Archer, who has gone eight starts since his last win, on Aug. 31 — and who is 0-5 with a 6.15 ERA in that stretch — said his problems Friday were not the result of weather and there is absolutely, positively nothing wrong with his arm or anything else.

"I feel great," he said. "At the end of the day, I just have to execute a little better."

Manager Kevin Cash said the biggest issue was the patient approach by the mostly veteran Orioles hitters. Their discipline to not expand the strike zone, similar to what Toronto did Sunday, combined with Archer not having his usual wipeout slider to lead to the rough results, Cash said.

"They know 'Arch;' they're familiar with him," Cash said. "But as soon as he makes a little bit of an adjustment and gets some strikes earlier in the count, you'll start seeing them expand."

The Rays (2-3) took a 1-0 lead in the first on an Evan Longoria home run but wasted a chance for more off Orioles starter Chris Tillman, who needed 24 pitches to get the first three outs and only 59 for the next 12.

The first-pitch temperature was announced at 50 degrees, but the feels-like was in the low 40s. And the forecast for tonight's game is worse: a high in the 40s (and a feels-like in the 20s), with rain and possibly snow, plus high winds. (That wouldn't approach the coldest game in Rays history, a 33-degree first pitch on April 17, 2003, in Boston.)

The Rays chose assorted ways to deal with the elements. Kevin Kiermaier, who said he is now more thin-blooded Floridian than hearty Midwesterner, and Longoria were among those wearing fitted hoods. Many players opted for long-sleeved undershirts, though Archer pitched in short sleeves.

"It's not fun," said Drew Smyly, who was slated to start tonight and knows cold, having pitched previously for Detroit. "I don't think it's fun for anyone. You've just got to suck it up and go out there."

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]

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