Chris Archer, Yunel Escobar give Rays win against Twins

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Tampa Bay Rays didn’t lose their edge during their recent slide. They’re still strategizing with a World Series in mind.

Saving Chris Archer’s right arm is one example, and he was so good on Friday night there was no concern of overexertion.

Archer spun six scoreless innings, and the Rays added to their slim wild-card lead by beating the Minnesota Twins 3-0.

“There was no moment that really showed
up. He pretty much had his way,” said manager Joe Maddon, who was more
than satisfied with 87 pitches by the rookie. “I just want to really eye
him up, because our intent is to play well into October, and I want to
make sure that he’s well.”

The Rays hold the second wild-card spot
with four teams still in striking range. They nudged their advantage to 1
games over Cleveland, due to a loss by New York that pushed the Yankees
to two games back. Baltimore (2 games behind) and Kansas City (3) are
lurking, too.

Archer (9-7) scattered three singles and
struck out seven without a walk, following a pair of rough outings to
start September. In his 20th start, he lowered his ERA to 3.03.

“I still feel mentally and physically
there. But I have an understanding of the big picture and maybe saving a
couple extra innings, just in case if we do make that magical playoff
run,” Archer said.

Yunel Escobar had an RBI double among
his three hits for the Rays, and Desmond Jennings and James Loney drove
in runs with singles against Kevin Correia (9-12), whose defense behind
him was less than ideal.

“We need to make the plays that should be made. We’re not good enough to make up for that right now,” Correia said.

After losing 13 of 17 games, the Rays
picked up an important victory on Thursday night over AL East-leading
Boston on a tiebreaking eighth-inning double by rookie standout Wil

The Rays started their weekend reprieve
against the floundering Twins before 11 straight games against
wild-card competitors Texas, the Orioles and Yankees. Tampa Bay has won
10 straight games against the Twins, including five this year. The
Twins, who lost 15 of their last 18 home games, struck out 11 times.

“I know hitting’s not easy. I’ve been
there. But you have to defend the plate. You have to put the ball in
play. You have no chance when you don’t swing,” Twins manager Ron
Gardenhire said.

Correia, who leads the Twins in wins,
starts, innings and strikeouts, left with no outs and two on in the
seventh, and reliever Caleb Thielbar escaped with a popped-up bunt by
Ben Zobrist that became a double play and a pickoff throw that caught
David DeJesus stealing.

That was about the only sequence for the Rays that went wrong.

Archer took advantage of the weakened
Twins lineup, missing star Joe Mauer and a whole lot more, and never let
a runner advance past second base. In the fifth inning, he hit Darin
Mastroianni with a pitch to put two on with one out.

But Archer retired Clete Thomas and
Eduardo Escobar on called third strikes, skipping off the mound and
pumping his arm with a clenched fist on his way to the dugout. His
changeup was extra sharp.

“I’ve had games where it’s been decent, but tonight was the best it’s been in my career,” Archer said.

Jake McGee, Joel Peralta and Fernando
Rodney each pitched a scoreless inning in relief, and Rodney recorded
his 35th save in 43 tries with a perfect ninth. So Archer left the game
in good hands, even if he felt he could’ve pitched longer.

“He’s got a long career ahead of him,
so at one point he’s got to understand that and realize it’s not a bad
thing,” catcher Jose Molina said.

Mauer (concussion) felt good working out for the second straight day,
and general manager Terry Ryan said the team will consider taking him on
the road next week. … RHP Jesse Crain, who has yet to pitch for the
Rays since being acquired in a July trade with the White Sox because of a
shoulder problem, might be ready for game action next week. … LHP
Matt Moore (15-3, 3.18 ERA) will try to extend his seven-game winning
streak on Saturday for the Rays, against Twins rookie LHP Andrew Albers
(2-2, 3.35 ERA). … Zobrist became the Rays’ leader in career walks,
passing Carlos Pena on the franchise list.