Chris Archer popped out of the dugout for the bottom of the ninth inning and allowed himself to take a quick peek at left field. Yep, he saw relievers Fernando Rodney and Joel Peralta warming up.
Nope, he didn’t care.
"I was feeling confident we wouldn’t have to go the bullpen," the rookie said.
Boy, was he right. Archer threw a two-hitter for his second shutout in three starts, outpitching Ivan Nova and leading the Tampa Bay Rays to a 1-0 victory over the New York Yankees on Saturday
Kelly Johnson had an RBI single off Nova (4-4) in the sixth to help the AL East-leading Rays improve to 24-5 since June 23, when they were in last place.
Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said before the game Archer (6-3) embraces the big moments, and he sure did once again at Yankee Stadium.
The 24-year-old right-hander with a Captain America lunch box in his locker never threw more than 14 pitches in an inning and needed just 97 overall — 67 for strikes — for his second career complete game.
Even more impressive: Archer became the first visiting rookie to toss a complete-game shutout in the Bronx since Arthur Rhodes in 1992.
Archer gave up a single to Lyle Overbay with one out in the fifth and a ground-rule double to Brett Gardner in the sixth for New York’s only hits in its sixth loss in nine games since the All-Star break.
"I don’t feel helpless," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I still believe in these guys. I see how they go about their business."
Archer did not walk a batter and struck out six. After catching Ichiro Suzuki’s comebacker and tossing to first for the final out, Tampa Bay’s starters met in front of the mound for what is becoming a common occurrence: the starting five’s group chest bump reserved for complete-game victories.
Archer’s gem was the team’s third in six games this week. It was also the Rays’ sixth shutout in July, a club record.
"To follow the other starters in the bunch makes it easier for me," Archer said.
Acquired from the Chicago Cubs before the 2011 season in a deal for Matt Garza, Archer enjoyed his best month as a major leaguer. He shut out Houston with a five-hitter on July 14 and his ERA for July is 0.73, an AL record for rookies. The Angels’ Bob Lee had an 0.76 ERA in 1964.
Archer outpitched Nova in the Bronx for the second time this season. Last month, Archer won by holding the Yankees to one run over six innings.
"That’s like a classic, old mid-60s kind of pitchers’ duel at Yankee Stadium," Maddon said of Saturday’s matchup. "It was incredible to watch."
Derek Jeter again was absent from the lineup and the Yankees’ newest hope to provide power — Alfonso Soriano — was hitless in three at-bats, leaving him 0 for 8 since returning to New York.
Jeter was eligible to come off the disabled list Saturday but instead played a simulated game at a location that Yankees would not disclose until long after he had eight at-bats at the Staten Island Yankees’ home field.
Girardi said Jeter will start at shortstop Sunday for the Yankees if he has no setbacks.
"You can be in great shape, but playing shape’s a little bit different because you’re getting used to standing around, starting and stopping, so we had to do all that," Girardi said. "As of right now, he came out very well. So we’ll see how he feels tomorrow."
With the captain out and Alex Rodriguez, on his 38th birthday, rehabbing his quadriceps strain at the Yankees minor league complex in Tampa, Fla., alongside other injured stars, including Curtis Granderson, the Yankees’ bats were again dormant.
And now they will be without designated hitter Travis Hafner for at least 15 days. The lefty-swinging slugger had an MRI Saturday that showed a right rotator cuff strain. He will be put on the DL Sunday.
The Yankees have not homered in nine straight games, their longest streak since going 10 in a row in 1984.
Nova matched Archer with a mixture of fastballs that reached 96 mph and a biting curveball that had the Rays swinging at dirt. He yielded six hits in seven innings. Nova threw 62 curveballs out of his 105 pitches in seven innings.
He struck out the side in the fourth after Wil Myers led off with a double and James Loney followed with one of Nova’s three walks.
Nova finished off the fifth with strikeouts of out Desmond Jennings and Evan Longoria. Longoria chased a breaking pitch down and away and smacked the barrel of his bat in frustration.
"He was good," catcher Chris Stewart said. "His fastball command was strong down in the zone, with movement. He got a lot of groundball outs, mixed in the curveball. Had some jams out there but he was able to make some good pitches to get out of them."
The walks finally hurt Nova in the sixth. His free pass to Matt Joyce with two outs put runners on first and second and extended the inning to allow Kelly Johnson a chance to bat.
Johnson then got enough of a 95 mph fastball to bloop it out into center field to drive in Ben Zobrist for a 1-0 lead. Zobrist had reached on a fielder’s choice and stolen second base.
NOTES: Tampa Bay DH Luke Scott was kept out of the lineup. He had soreness in the shoulder/upper back area but said postgame that he would be fine to play Sunday. … Rodriguez did light running in the outfield, played catch, hit off a tee in the indoor cage and took 17 grounders hit directly at him on the grass in front of the dirt at third. Six fans, one with a poster board sign saying "Happy Birthday Alex" were there when he left. … Maddon became a grandfather for the fourth time. Giuseppe Ennio Maddon was born Friday night.