CLEVELAND — At this time last season, Chris Archer was one of the leading pitchers in the majors on his way to his first All-Star appearance.
This season, Archer leads the majors in losses after picking up his 10th Wednesday in a 6-1 defeat to the Indians, and he's trying to figure out what to do differently.
As unexpected as that would have seemed, manager Kevin Cash said it was not surprising given how Archer has pitched.
"It's definitely frustrating — we've got a couple frustrating things going on right now," Cash said. "I don't think it's a mystery at all. We kind of see what's taking place. When you're falling behind and we're facing big-league hitters, they take advantage when they have the count in their favor. And they're not missing very hittable pitches."
The loss on a championship-celebrating day in Cleveland was the Rays' seventh straight, tying their longest skid of Cash's season-plus tenure and dropping them to 31-39, matching their low point of the season at eight games under .500.
First innings have been a major problem for Archer, and that was the case again Wednesday as he allowed three runs, with two batters reaching on walks. Combining his struggles with how sharp Indians starter Trevor Bauer was and the outcome seemed obvious fairly early as the Rays were held to three hits total for a second straight night.
"It is very frustrating putting the team behind the 8-ball numerous times this season right out of the gate," Archer said. "Something I definitely need to get better at. Because outside of the first inning, I threw the ball well today and did everything I could."
Archer was in trouble from the start, walking leadoff man Carlos Santana on five pitches, then giving up a 1-and-2 homer to Jason Kipnis. Making it worse, Archer then walked Francisco Lindor on five pitches and, after a groundout, gave up a run-scoring single to Jose Ramirez that made it 3-0.
In the first innings of his 16 starts, Archer has allowed 19 runs for a 10.69 ERA. In the subsequent innings, he has a 3.55 ERA. (His issues are more acute on the road, where he has a 15.00 ERA in the first frames.)
"We've got to start adjusting off that a little bit," Cash said. "We're putting ourselves in a little bit of a hole, and the way we're playing as a team right now, that's tough to come back from."
Archer said he will contemplate some changes to his warmups, but the bigger issue was the recurring mantra of not being aggressive enough and not having proper command of his fastball.
"It's tough. For roughly four years, my major-league career, I've had the same routine," he said. "But maybe I should change something up. I'll look into it."
Reflective of how badly things are going for the Rays, when they got their second hit of the night and had a bit of a rally in the seventh, they messed that up and got to within only 4-1.
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With Brad Miller on third and Logan Morrison on second, Corey Dickerson delivered an actual clutch hit, singling through the left side. But shortstop Lindor made a sliding stop in shallow left, and by the time third-base coach Charlie Montoyo tried to stop Morrison, it was too late and he was tagged out.
"He was telling me, 'Go, go, go,' and then he told me, 'Stop,' and I tried, but I don't have good enough brakes," Morrison said.
Just another of those kind of nights.