SEATTLE — Chris Archer ordered the shirt during the offseason from the Under Armour catalog and has worn it regularly around the clubhouse since spring training. That it happened to be the only thing left hanging in his locker Sunday afternoon for him to pull on for interviews before heading to the shower was, he insisted, purely serendipitous.
But the message couldn't have been more appropriate:
Archer did just that in another dominating performance that led the shorthanded Rays to another win, 3-1 over the Mariners, capping their country-crossing road trip with a 7-3 mark and a 31-27 record overall.
Archer worked seven strong innings to win his fourth straight decision and seventh overall. He allowed six hits and an unearned run to improve his ERA to 1.84, second best in the American League. He struck out 11 to give him a majors-most 108, in 83 innings, after notching 12 against the Mariners on May 27 and a team record-tying 15 against the Angels Tuesday) He threw 77 strikes among 113 pitches.
And along the way, he indeed made history, the first pitcher in modern major-league history to log three consecutive starts with 10 or more strikeouts and no walks.
"You guys always ask about Chris Archer," manager Kevin Cash said. "So I guess he's putting himself in his own class now."
Archer is adamant about focusing on the process rather than the results, but he allowed that Sunday's accomplishment was an achievement.
"It's cool, man. It really shows you the power of your mind," he said. "The less you focus on things you can't control, a lot of times the better the outcome is.
"When I'm out there, I'm not thinking about strikeouts. Even whenever I 'need' a strikeout, I'm just trying to execute every pitch. And if you do that, and you simplify it to that, then you start to do great things."
No surprise, he found the absence of a walk the bigger deal than the 38 strikeouts, certain he had never — "high school, minor league, Little League" — gone three straight games without allowing one.
"If I'm staying in the zone, I'm keeping the team in the game, I'm pitching deep," he said. "The strikeouts actually hurt your pitch count. The walks are obviously the thing I'm most happy about."
Archer was the headliner, though not the whole show, as the Rays, despite fielding what would politely be called an "interesting" lineup without Evan Longoria (sore wrist), Asdrubal Cabrera (day off) and lefties David DeJesus and Kevin Kiermaier, scratched out enough to win their third series on the trip.
Logan Forsythe knocked in the first run, rookie Mikie Mahtook homered and pinch-hitting DeJesus delivered the third on a sac fly off lefty Vidal Nuno after a key two-strike bunt Jake Elmore did on his own. Catcher Bobby Wilson caught two runners stealing and Mahtook made a diving catch in center amid the usual strong defense, though a Nick Franklin error did lead to a run. And Jake McGee and Kevin Jepsen, filling in again for unavailable Brad Boxberger, got the last six outs.
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Archer wasn't particularly crisp during his pregame warmups, leaving Wilson a bit concerned as they walked in from the bullpen. But Archer quickly made it clear it was game-on as he mixed his overpowering fastball and dastardly slider. "After that first inning, you knew he had his best stuff," Wilson said.
Archer navigated a spot of trouble in the fourth with runners on first and third and no outs. He struck out Kyle Seager and Mark Trumbo, making them look bad in doing do, then pumped his fist when Wilson caught Nelson Cruz stealing and the Rays got him out during a rundown before Seth Smith crossed the plate.
His only other challenge came in the seventh, when he allowed a leadoff single to Cruz and Franklin's error at short allowed Brad Miller's two-out single to score a run.
"His stuff seem like it gets better with every outing," Cash said. "I don't know if that makes much sense."
Why not? Like the shirt says, make history.
Contact Marc Topkin at email@example.com. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.