Sunday, February 25, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Performance not matching potential for Rays' Chris Archer

ST. PETERSBURG

The latest Rays losing streak, unimpeded by the All-Star break, has reached seven games. The worst stretch in franchise history has risen to 23 losses in 26 games.

The second half began Friday night at the Trop — the decidedly last-place Rays against the AL East first-place Orioles. This is no time to be delusional. The first half was awful. Time to own what happened.

Chris Archer, come on down.

Archer, 12-game loser, started against Baltimore's bats Friday.

A fresh start. A competitive start.

Now he's a 13-game loser. Orioles win, 4-3.

"I feel I threw the ball well, but not well enough," Archer said.

Rays starting pitching has been atrocious. Archer, once seen as an ace, remains on pace to lose 22 times. Factoring in advance billing, he has been a huge flop. No way around it. He needs to own it.

This isn't about Archer being likable, which he is. Nor is it about his great TV analysis work in the playoffs last year. Or Archer front and center, hands across the water, on the Cuba trip during spring training. Or him chatting up President Obama in Havana.

It's about going out there and pitching well.

And winning.

He hasn't delivered.

Own it.

Archer had some good moments Friday, positives to build off. He attacked hitters all evening. There was that 1-2-3 first inning, a frame that typically leaves Archer bloodied. He pitched into the eighth inning, only the third time in 20 starts this season he has gone at least seven.

If only Rays hitters hadn't stranded like 112 guys the first three innings. It's not always about the pitching. Tough night for Archer.

But he still earned the loss. In only his third eighth inning this season, he gave up a solo home run to Jonathan Schoop that put Baltimore ahead. Archer has lost six straight decisions. He hasn't won a game in 40 days, and 40 nights, if you want to get biblical about it.

Nothing he will do from here out is going to save a season that has already gone over the falls without a barrel. And nothing is going to get him traded, no matter what the offers. The Rays are banking on Archer's future. Meanwhile, he's doing whatever it takes to lose.

On Friday, he did just enough.

He remains the guy who entered the game with a 4.66 ERA — it rose to 4.68 on Friday. He's 4-13 this year and now has a 36-45 career record. Makes that No. 1 starter stuff look like nonsense.

Truth be told, Archer hasn't come close to looking like the pitcher who tore through his first 19 starts last season by going 9-6 with a 2.74 ERA.

Entering the game, and since the All-Star break last season, the equivalent of an entire season's work, Archer is 7-19 with a 4.31 ERA.

Which is the aberration?

"I've had a pretty good career," Archer said Thursday. "You can break it down in six-month intervals if you want. My total body of work pretty speaks to who I am. The honest answer is I don't know. I have so much upside, so much potential.

"I did have a great start to last year. 2014 was good. 2013 was good. My brief time in 2012 was pretty good, too, for a rookie. The potential is endless. So for me to answer that question, not off the last 12 or 15 starts but my last 30 or 40 starts, it wouldn't even be fair, because the potential is endless. You asked me who am I, and I can't answer that, because the potential is endless."

That might very well be.

But potential isn't performance.

Archer is a good, decent guy. Hard worker. Smart. Archer can be fascinating. He can talk life philosophy and discuss the last book he read. He's deep. His charitable work, his time spent with kids, is real.

But it's still about how you pitch. It's not about deep thinking. It's about going deep in games. If I'm a Rays fan, here's the only thing I want to read about Chris Archer:

Eight innings, six hits, two runs. Oh, and WP.

Thursday, Archer mentioned that if you took away his bad first innings, the rest of his work holds up well. And it does. But I checked: First innings count. All the innings do.

Friday, it was the eighth inning, Archer's one mistake to Schoop.

Whatever it takes.

The losing goes on. And on.

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