Wednesday, July 18, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Chris Archer's game plan the same no matter opponent

An essential element in RHP Chris Archer's success is the internal belief and confidence that he singularly controls the quality of his performance.

And a key indicator is how he approaches every start, and every opponent, with the same mind-set, that if he properly executes his pitches, he is going to have a quality outing.

Even when that opposing lineup includes potential Hall of Famer Albert Pujols and perennial MVP candidate Mike Trout, as the Angels' will tonight.

"I feel like every time we have a pre-game (meeting), we're talking about a good lineup," Archer said. "There's nothing to change or do anything different.

"You've got to go right after these guys, just like you've got to go after any other lineup I've pitched against recently. They definitely have two of the premier hitters in baseball, one player that is probably going to be in the Hall of Fame. But the mentality is the same. Be aggressive, attack the strike zone and help the team get a victory."

After an 0-4, 7.32 start, Archer has pitched better — which is to say more like his All-Star ace form of 2015 — in his past two outings. He beat the Orioles and battled the Blue Jays, allowing just two runs on six hits while working 12⅔ innings, striking out 14.

Archer said after he allowed a third-inning homer to Jose Bautista in Saturday's game, he switched to a more aggressive approach and felt "much more like myself." It showed as he retired his last 11 hitters.

"I definitely think however many outs I get, however many pitches I throw, I want to have that aggressive mentality," he said. "I don't want it have to be a run scored or a home run or whatever. I plan on doing it from Pitch 1 and not from Pitch 30 or 40 this time."

Though Pujols is still struggling to get going, hitting .198 with a .666 on-base plus slugging percentage — although still with six homers and 17 RBIs — Trout has been sizzling, hitting .407 with six homers and 18 RBIs in his past 14 games. Overall he is hitting .317 with a .996 OPS.

Archer was in fine form against the Angels last season, striking out a team-record-tying 15, including Trout three times, with no walks, in a June 2 win.

POWER PLAY: C Curt Casali really doesn't consider himself a power hitter. But you wouldn't know that by watching him swing or looking at a stats line that shows 62 percent of his hits since he was called up last June — 21 of 34 — have been for extra bases.

Or that he has hit as many home runs, 13, as singles.

So while his ratio of a homer every 12 at-bats would rank among the best in the majors, his batting average of .218 and on-base percentage of .276 could obviously use some work.

"Believe me, I'd like to be more consistent at the plate, maybe throw in a single instead of a strikeout or a pop fly," Casali said. "I want to be more consistent.

"But then again, I feel like if I get my pitch I should hit it fairly hard. And fortunately the pitches I have squared up I have hit pretty hard."

PITCHING IN: The Angels decided not to start ace RHP Garrett Richards tonight against the Rays. Richards left his last outing due to dehydration and cramping. RH reliever Cory Rasmus gets the start. … The Rays are still deciding whether to start LHP Matt Moore on schedule Sunday against the Angels or bump him back a day and use reliever RHP Erasmo Ramirez or callup RHP Matt Andriese. They need to add a fifth starter by Tuesday.

MISCELLANY: Tonight's game is not being televised by Fox Sports Sun. … The Rays are not among the teams expected to attend today's Arizona showcase by former Cy Young Award winner RHP Tim Lincecum, who is trying to make a comeback at age 31.… Thursday was the Rays' third open day in an eight-day span, and seventh day off, counting the April 9 rainout in Baltimore, since the beginning of the season. Starting tonight, they play 32 of the next 34 days.

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