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 Myers.
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.
NOTES: 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.