ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) Once again, Chris Archer made it look easy against the Toronto Blue Jays.
The young Tampa Bay pitcher improved to 3-0 this season against the Rays’ AL East rivals, limiting the high-scoring Blue Jays to three hits over eight innings in a 4-3 victory Tuesday night that extended the 26-year-old’s personal-best winning streak to six straight decisions.
The Blue Jays lead the major leagues in runs scored by a wide margin, but have had an especially tough time stringing together hits against Archer, who is 6-1 in 12 career starts against them.
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In three games against Toronto this year, the right-hander has allowed two runs and seven hits while striking out 25 over 22 innings. He walked one and struck out seven Tuesday night, and only one of Toronto’s two runs off him was earned.
”With a pitcher like that, I feel like I’m bored because he’s striking out everybody. Nobody’s hitting ground balls to the shortstop,” Tampa Bay’s Asdrubal Cabrera said. ”I’m enjoying it when he’s on the mound.”
The first-place Rays have won eight of Archer’s past nine starts. This was the 10th time in 16 starts this season he has allowed one earned run or fewer.
”He just continues to go out and impress, especially against that lineup,” manager Kevin Cash said. ”That’s an extremely difficult lineup to have that many at-bats against. They just pick up on your mistakes. It doesn’t matter how good your stuff is. They’re going to get you eventually, and Arch just kept pumping fast balls and sliders and they just couldn’t quite time him up.”
`It’s tricky because they’re smart. … They remember each time you face them, so you try to execute every pitch to your fullest capability,” Archer said. ”You know you can’t slip because if you try to throw a slider, you hang it, it’s going to get banged.”
Brandon Guyer and Joey Butler had RBI singles for the Rays, with a wild pitch and passed ball setting up both runs off knuckleballer R.A. Dickey (3-7). The Rays scored a third run off the Toronto starter with help from centerfielder Kevin Pillar `s throwing error and Cabrera hit a solo homer off Steve Delabar for a 4-2 lead in the eighth.
Edwin Encarnacion’s solo homer off Brad Boxberger, who earned his 19th save, trimmed Toronto’s deficit to one run in the ninth.
Archer (9-4) limited the Blue Jays to no runs and two hits over seven innings each of the first two times he faced them this year. He held them hitless this time until Dioner Navarro homered with one out in the fifth.
Navarro went deep against his former team for the second straight night, ending the Blue Jays’ string of consecutive scoreless innings against Archer at 18. Pillar singled leading off the sixth for the second hit off the Rays starter, and Navarro singled in the seventh to set up a Blue Jays run that scored on first baseman Jake Elmore’s error.
Archer’s winning streak is the longest of his career. It spans nine starts since his last loss at home against Texas on May 7.
”Chris is going to be good for a very long time. He’s one of the best pitchers, not just in the American League, but the whole league,” Dickey said. ”You know it’s going to be a tight game. You can bend a little bit, but you better not break or you’ll going to be out of it real quick with a guy like that on the other side.”
Dickey, who is 0-3 against the Rays this season, allowed three runs and eight hits in seven innings. He walked two and hit two batters, while striking out two in his first start since returning from the bereavement list following the death of his father.
”I’m not ready to re-live any of that,” Dickey said. ”The organization and my teammates, the support I’ve received from those guys, some of the classiest moves I’ve ever been associated with in baseball. It made me feel really good.”
Blue Jays: RHP Aaron Sanchez (strained lat) has resumed playing catch.
Rays: LHP Matt Moore (elbow ligament replacement surgery) could make his final minor league rehab start Friday night for Triple-A Durham and return to the rotation next week. ”If all goes well, he’ll be with us,” Cash said. … RHP Erasmo Ramirez (groin) will have a bullpen session in the next few days and may be back for a start June 30.
BATTER UP: Steven Stamkos and four other members of the NHL’s Eastern Conference champion Tampa Bay Lightning – Ben Bishop, Alex Killorn, Brian Boyle and Braydon Coburn – took batting practice before the game. Bishop caught the attention of early arrivals in the crowd of 11,474, hitting four home runs. He joined Stamkos, Killorn and Coburn in throwing ceremonial first pitches. The Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Lightning in the Stanley Cup Final in six games.
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said LHP Brett Cecil is out as closer, which could lead to RHP Roberto Osuna taking over the role. Osuna struck out five over two innings in Monday night’s 8-5 win over the Rays, picking up his first career save. Cecil has allowed 10 earned runs over his last 5 2-3 innings.
Blue Jays RHP Marco Estrada (5-3, 3.92 ERA) will face Rays RHP Nathan Karns (4-3, 3.53) in Wednesday’s series finale.