ST. PETERSBURG — Chris Archer showed something in the way he overcame an ugly beginning to Tuesday's start, battling through seven innings to put the Rays in position to come back and beat the Yankees 4-2.
Reliever Kevin Jepsen lauded Archer for his determination and maturity: "It just goes to show you what kind of guy he is." Catcher Rene Rivera praised Archer for staying focused. DH David DeJesus raved about the grit Archer showed, "that he could've just let it go" and shrugged that he didn't have it this game.
"You could probably make the argument that this might've been Arch's most impressive start," manager Kevin Cash said. "The way it started and then what he did to finish it."
Evan Longoria showed them a few things, too. The team leader for the Rays (18-16) singled to start the tying rally in the seventh, and he delivered the sac fly that scored the go-ahead run in the eighth before 10,417, a record-low for a Yankees-Rays game at the Trop.
But his visit to the mound during that mess of a first inning — when Archer allowed the first five Yankees to reach (four singles and a walk) and two to score before getting an out — seemed to make a big difference as well.
The Yankees had the 2-0 lead and the bases still loaded with Stephen Drew in midcount when Longoria went to the mound and summoned Rivera.
"We changed the signs," Rivera said. "Once you get a couple guys at second and they get another guy at second, you think they might see what your signs are. … Longo is on top of the game every time, and he made sure to tell us to make sure we did that at that moment."
It certainly helped to some degree. Archer got out of the first with just the two runs, though he needed 32 pitches.
He allowed one-out singles to twin Yankees pests Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner in the second. But Rivera lent a huge hand, throwing out both trying to swipe second, the first Rays catcher with two caught stealings in an inning since Dioner Navarro in August 2008.
"Throwing out those two guys, two speedy guys for them, that was huge in the game," Rivera said.
Archer took it from there, retiring 15 of his last 16 and remaining unbeaten in seven career starts against the Yankees.
The key to getting out of the first-inning trouble, he said, was not worrying about it.
"I was honestly not thinking about the situation," he said. "I was just thinking about executing my pitches, and I knew that the hits that they were getting, that wasn't going to beat me. If I stayed down in the zone, use my fastball, use my slider, that that wasn't going to continue to happen throughout the game."
Held down by Nathan Eovaldi for six innings, the Rays tied it in the seventh on a leadoff bloop single by Longoria, a one-out walk by Logan Forsythe, a wild pitch that moved them up and a ground-ball single up the middle by DeJesus that scored two. "Just able to find a hole," DeJesus said.
Kevin Kiermaier started the winning rally with a one-out walk off Eovaldi. He hustled to third when Steven Souza Jr. sliced a single to right. Longoria jumped on reliever Dellin Betances' first pitch to deliver a fly deep enough to center to score Kiermaier.