LOS ANGELES — If Chris Archer was auditioning for the Dodgers – or the Pirates, Rangers or one of other contending teams shopping this week for a frontline starter – he put on an impressive show Tuesday night.
But, as has been the case often for Archer and for the Rays, it was in a losing effort, this time 3-2.
That was the Rays fourth straight loss by one run, and the sixth in their seven since the All-Star break, with their overall improved play going unrewarded.
"We're playing some tight ballgames and we're not finding ways to win them, that's for sure,'' manager Kevin Cash said. "I know the guys are frustrated. We're all frustrated. ... We've got to find a way to win 'em.''
Archer continued what has been a positive trend, for himself and the Rays rotation overall, in throwing seven strong innings, giving up four hits while striking out eight to push his AL-leading total to 155, and allowing the three runs, only one earned. More good, 60 of his 84 pitches where strikes, a dowdy 71.4 percent.
"I thought that might have been one of his best starts if not his best start,'' Cash said. "Very efficient with his pitches, just attacked the strike zone, had really good velo, the slider was good. I thought he threw the ball really well.''
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, speaking as the opposition, was also impressed.
"He was very good," Roberts said. "There were a couple of errors behind him, but his pitch count was still low, a lot of swing and miss, a kid who repeated his delivery, plus-plus slider, obviously, and he punches out a lot of guys.
"That's the first time I've seen him up close and personal, and now it makes sense. In talking to our guys, the ball's got true life. He pitches at both the top and bottom of the zone. He's a one (an ace)."
But Archer still ended up with his majors-most 14th loss, and in part because he made one of the two errors — on an unnecessarily bad throw — that led to the Dodgers scoring twice in the third.
"It was a good outing, but we lost the game,'' Archer said. "So it's hard to look at from a personal standpoint on how well I did when there are some things I could have done better obviously.''
He didn't get a lot of help from his friends, either.
The Rays were shut out for seven innings by Bud Norris and the Dodgers bullpen, and didn't do a good job taking advantage of repeated late opportunities.
They had two on with one out in the seventh as Norris yielded to the pen, but got nothing as pinch-hitter Oswaldo Arcia poped and pinch-hitter Logan Morrison, in his first action since July 18, grounded out.
They did a little better in the eighth after starting with singles by pinch-hitter Tim Beckham and Logan Forsythe. A double by Brad Miller scored one run, and a wild pitch by lefty reliever Luis Avilan allowed Forsythe to score another, the call standing after a replay review.
But Avilan kept them from getting more, setting down two lefties Cash allowed to bat though he had right-hander Steven Souza Jr. on the bench. Avilan struck out Corey Dickerson, who Cash said, "we had confidence in ... coming through there" and then after intentionally walking righty Steve Pearce, Avilan got lefty Kevin Kiermaier to pop out.
The Rays wasted more chances in the ninth as Arcia led off with a single against closer Kenley Jansen and was bunted over, but Beckham struck out and, after Forsythe was hit by a pitch, Brad Miller went down swinging as well.
"You're trying to find that extra RBI or prevent that extra run or two runs from scoring,'' Cash said. "No matter how you look at it, those one-run games are frustrating.''
Archer looked quite sharp in retiring the first seven Dodgers, but then an error by Pearce at first base started a sequence that led to two Dodgers runs in the third.
Joc Pederson reached when Pearce couldn't handle a throw from second baseman Forsythe, who had charged a slow bouncer and hurried an awkward throw that actually struck Pearce's leg.
"That play, he's so close and he has to throw it so fast I actually have to guess where it's going to be at,'' Pearce said. "He threw it right from his jersey and I couldn't see it. ... If that play's made it's a whole different ballgame.''
After a sac bunt moved Pederson to second with two outs, Archer fielded a slow roller by Chase Utley that should have ended the inning, but he threw high to first, putting runners on the corners.
"No excuse, I should have made a better throw,'' Archer said. "One of the areas I could have been better.''
The Dodgers cashed in both mistakes, as Corey Seager rapped an RBI single to center, then Justin Turner dropped a ball into left in front of Dickerson to make it 2-0.
"That was basically the game right there,'' Cash said. "Very tough play for Pearcey and Logan. Obviously Arch's play, I'm sure he'd like to have that one back. Just make a good throw and we're out of that inning.
"They capitalized on our mistakes and made the most of it.''
The Rays have played regular season games in 41 parks, and Dodger Stadium remains the only one they have not won in, now 0-4.
They have one more chance – for probably the next three years at least based on the scheduling format – in a matinee finale today, with Matt Moore scheduled to face Brandon McCarthy.
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected] Follow @ TBTimes_Rays.