ST. PETERSBURG — RHP Chris Archer pitched inside with his fastball. He threw his slider for strikes when he was behind in the count. He pitched into the eighth inning for only the second time this season. He did not walk a batter.
Archer did everything he could Saturday to get a win, but he didn't because he allowed a two-out home run in the seventh inning that tied the score. That enabled the Astros to come back for a 4-3 win against the bullpen.
"It was a really, really good start, and a great sign at that," manager Kevin Cash said.
It was a bittersweet day for Archer.
"My No. 1 goal is the day that I pitch is to get a team win, so yeah, I threw the ball well, but not quite well enough," he said. "Got to love the effort. Got to love the way we went about things. They were just able to squeak that one out."
Archer retired the first nine batters he faced but twice gave up leads. Afterward he did not want to talk about his performance.
Cash, though, did.
"You saw bits and pieces of his stuff coming at different times (this season)," Cash said. "It seemed like he really meshed everything together to give us an outstanding start."
ALMOST A COMEBACK: SS Brad Miller and 3B Evan Longoria both homered. RF Steven Souza Jr. drove in the third run with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the ninth inning off Astros closer Will Harris, who went in with a 26-game scoreless streak.
The Rays left the tying run at third base when CF Desmond Jennings grounded into a game-ending double play.
"Love the way the guys competed all the way to the end," Cash said. "It showed a lot about the club, going in against that guy (Harris) and forcing the issue like we did. Not enough too late, I guess."
DRAFT NOTES: The Rays used their 12th-round pick on USF junior RHP Brandon Lawson.
"Being drafted by the Rays is a dream come true for me," Lawson, a Missouri native, said. "I've been a Rays fan ever since I moved here and like everything their organization is about. I am very fortunate for this opportunity."
In the 13th round, the Rays took Mississippi State 1B Nathaniel Lowe, brother of Josh Lowe, the team's first-round pick.
MEDICAL MATTERS: RHP Brad Boxberger (left oblique) said his side is improving, but he has not been cleared to begin any strengthening exercises. That makes it too early to attach a timeline for Boxberger's return.
"Not right now," he said. "It's still kind of in that healing process. I got it pretty good, apparently. It's just a matter of taking it day by day to see how each day how it feels, but it's progressing better each day, so it's going in the right direction."
CF Kevin Kiermaier (left hand fracture) said he is able to make a fist with the injured hand. He has been tracking pitches when Rays pitchers throw their bullpens and has taken dry swings with his right hand. On Friday, Kiermaier started shagging fly balls during BP while wearing his glove on his right hand.
NOTEWORTHY: The Astros scored more than three runs against the Rays for the first time in 14 games. … Souza did not strike out for the first time in 19 games. … DH Steve Pearce had three hits for the second straight game and third time this season.
Times staff writer Joey Knight contributed to this report.