ST. PETERSBURG — Rays starter Chris Archer faced Red Sox slugger David Ortiz three times in the first three innings Friday night, setting things up for some potentially interesting theater.
But there were no bat flips or beanballs in the first meeting since the players shared critical words (through the media) in late July. Other than Ortiz getting booed more vociferously before every at-bat, there were no added fireworks in front of 16,107 at Tropicana Field.
However, there were several bloopers, thanks to another sloppy game by the Rays in their 8-4 loss to Boston to open a 10-game homestand.
"That was not a good game," manager Joe Maddon said. "We did not play well."
What has been most puzzling for the Rays, who pride themselves on pitching and defense, has been the recent rash of errors. During a critical stretch in which it has hoped to keep its faint playoff hopes alive, Tampa Bay (65-70) has committed errors in six straight games, its longest streak since going seven in a row, May 18-25, 2012.
The most recent streak included two errors Friday. One was by Archer, who lasted four innings, charged with eight runs (seven earned) on nine hits. He had allowed one earned run in each of his previous four starts.
"This game has a funny way of humbling you, and (Friday) was a very humbling experience," Archer said. "I had been pitching well lately, since the All-Star break, but it (stinks) to let the team down. I'm disappointed in myself because I'm capable of much, much more than that."
With two outs in the first, Archer dropped a slow chopper by Mookie Betts. "That was a real routine (pitcher's fielding practice) 101," Maddon said.
But the big miscue came on what should have been an inning-ending double play in the second. With one on and one out and the Rays trailing 3-0, Ortiz hit a grounder to first baseman James Loney, who got the force at second. But shortstop Yunel Escobar made a wild relay to Archer, who was covering first. Archer then gave up a double, walk and a hit batter before Betts ripped a grand slam, putting the game away.
For Escobar, it was his third error in the past two games and 15th of the season after having seven last season.
"It's been really unusual to see him making those throwing gaffes," Maddon said.
Archer had insisted he was ready to move on from the back-and-forth he shared with Ortiz in July. In that game, Ortiz flipped his bat after a homer, Archer said he was acting "bigger than the game" and the veteran DH questioned whether Archer had been around long enough to speak out. Archer gave up a hit to Ortiz on Friday, a single off the rightfield wall in the third.
Archer said the main problem Friday was a lack of execution. He became the fourth Rays starter in the past five games not to last five innings.
Brandon Guyer, who was in the lineup only after Desmond Jennings was a late scratch, delivered most of the offense with a two-run homer and an RBI single. But it wasn't enough as the Rays lost for the ninth time in 13 games.
"It's frustrating," Archer said. "We know we're better than this."
Reach Joe Smith at [email protected]abay.com. Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.