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Five steals part of bad game for Rays catcher Conger

Cleveland Indians center fielder Rajai Davis (20) steals second base in the first inning of the game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cleveland Indians in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Thursday, April 14, 2016.
Cleveland Indians center fielder Rajai Davis (20) steals second base in the first inning of the game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cleveland Indians in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Thursday, April 14, 2016.
Published Apr. 15, 2016

ST. PETERSBURG — Rays C Hank Conger had a pretty bad day at the office.

Most troubling, he allowed the Indians to steal five bases Thursday, including three in the first inning, and made an errant throw in the 6-0 loss.

More frustrating, with a chance to make amends with a one-out double in the fifth inning of what was then a 1-0 game, he was called out on a replay review for coming off the base as he popped up from his slide.

Controlling the running game was a concern when the Rays got Conger from Houston, where he threw out only one of 43 potential basestealers, and the last 37 were safe.

The Rays were confident he would be better under their tutelage, and their more focused strategy in holding runners, but thus far Conger is 0-for-7 with the Rays, and 0-for-his-last-44.

"They got good jumps and took care of their opportunities and went from there," Conger said. "I'm not worried (about the streak). As long as I put the ball on the bag and make some good throws, I'll be fine."

Rays manager Kevin Cash kind of said yeah, but …, acknowledging the Indians' speed but pointing out that starter Chris Archer does a good job of keeping them close.

"They got good jumps, but that's something that we have to continually get better at," Cash said. "He has to get better at making quality throws, and our pitchers have to continue putting emphasis on holding runners, which I felt Arch did."

Conger had no dispute — "Obviously that's my fault"— with the call at second, a somewhat unfortunate and frustrating byproduct of enhanced replay as the review crew has no choice but to call out a runner even if his break in contact with the base is momentary and circumstantial.

"It really doesn't matter what I think," Cash said. "The rules are the rules. He came off the bag. We had it happen to us last year. It doesn't matter. He was out."

THE ARCH WAY: Archer seemed most disappointed with lasting only 51/3 innings, saying "all my stuff was better" than in the first two starts despite what he called "an average or mediocre" result, allowing three runs (two earned) on seven hits and three walks, with six strikeouts.

"I walked more people, but I felt I was in control of the baseball a lot more," he said. "The changeup was good; I gave up a couple hits on some good pitches. I could move my fastball around. I had a pretty good slider, (though) not the elite-elite like I know it can be."

Archer presented Cash with a tough decision, battling his way through five stressful innings, with runners on base in each, while throwing 97 pitches, trailing 1-0. Cash, acknowledging later it "could have gone either way," left Archer in. That didn't work out well, as he allowed a single to Jose Ramirez to open the sixth, then threw a bad slider that Marlon Byrd launched for a two-run homer.

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HONORED TO HONOR: Archer, who is biracial, considers it an honor to participate in the annual tribute to Jackie Robinson, as the Rays and all other teams will wear Robinson's No. 42 for tonight's games.

"Wearing No. 42 and playing, I don't think it gets any more special, especially for me, just knowing not only what he did in baseball, but what he did for the civil rights movement as a whole," Archer said.

"The impact that he had on baseball is ever lasting. He changed this game. It's not only America's pastime now, it's a worldly or universal pastime, because he opened up the doors for people of all races and all colors to play. … There's such an influx of cultures and ethnicities now and it's all due to him."

MISCELLANY: CF Kevin Kiermaier is 0-for-his-last-18, one shy of his career worst. . … Right-handed hitting INF Steve Pearce will be happy just to be in the lineup tonight, but has the added incentive of battling fellow Lakeland High product LHP Chris Sale, the White Sox starter. … INF Tim Beckham and OF Brandon Guyer are also expected to see plenty of weekend action as the Rays face three lefty starters after only one in their first nine games. … The five stolen bases were the most allowed by the Rays since Sept. 19, 2013 vs. Texas. … Indians starter Danny Salazar went to the bullpen to throw during their three-run sixth inning. … Former Rays C Toby Hall will be reading to kids this morning at the Great Explorations Children's Museum.

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