The last time Tampa Bay’s Chris Archer pitched at Yankee Stadium, he turned in the finest game of his career.
Making his return Monday night, the right-hander has a chance to put his name alongside Hall of Famer Walter Johnson while leading the Rays to their first three-game winning streak since late May.
Archer (4-5, 3.29 ERA) is the second pitcher in the last 30 years to win his first four starts against New York (41-39), joining Ervin Santana in 2005-06. The last pitcher to go 5-0 in his first five games against the Yankees franchise is Johnson, who did it with the Washington Senators in 1907-08 against the New York Highlanders.
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”Baseball history is super interesting. It’s cool to be part of that history,” Archer said Sunday before the last-place Rays (35-49) beat Baltimore 12-7 to take three of four in the series.
Tampa Bay, seeking its fifth win in six games, last won three in a row during a season-high four-game run May 22-25.
"It’s really important to keep it going,” manager Joe Maddon said. ”The focus has to be on winning series.”
Archer owns a career record of 14-15 with a 3.41 ERA, but he’s 4-0 with a 1.26 mark against the Yankees. He threw a two-hitter in a 1-0 victory in his most recent start in the Bronx on July 27, walking none and striking out six.
”Since that point, I know what I’m capable of and I’m striving to do that every night out," he said. "That’s the standard for me."
Archer has struck out 15 in his last two starts, and the Rays need nine strikeouts to break the 2002 Chicago Cubs’ major league record of 286 in a month.
Ichiro Suzuki, Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, Brian Roberts and Alfonso Soriano are a combined 4 for 28 when facing Archer, though Jacoby Ellsbury has gone 7 for 10 against him.
Derek Jeter, batting .389 during a five-game hitting streak, has posted a .140 average in his last 10 at home against Tampa Bay.
The Yankees are looking to avoid a seventh loss in nine games after dropping their last two against Boston at Yankee Stadium. Beltran went 3 for 4 with a homer in Sunday’s 8-5 defeat after going 2 for 25 in his previous seven contests.
"I always believe that when you play against teams that are in your division, those are series that you’ve got to win," Beltran told MLB’s official website. "We missed this one."
New York will try to take a step toward doing that Monday behind David Phelps (3-4, 4.35). After winning two consecutive starts for the first time this season, Phelps surrendered six runs over five innings in a 7-6 loss at Toronto on Tuesday. He didn’t get the decision.
The right-hander, 2-0 with a 2.82 ERA in four career starts against Tampa Bay, has given up one run in two innings of relief against the Rays in 2014.
Evan Longoria (0 for 7) and Desmond Jennings (0 for 6) haven’t been able to solve Phelps, but Ben Zobrist has gone 5 for 12 with two doubles in the matchup and was 5 for 11 in the last two games against the Orioles.
Matt Joyce, who had a career-high five hits with two home runs and four RBIs on Sunday, has batted .178 with one homer and two RBIs in his last 17 games at Yankee Stadium.
The Rays could be without shortstop Yunel Escobar for a sixth straight game due to a sore right shoulder.
Tampa Bay, 4-3 in the season series, took two of three in the Bronx from May 2-4.