ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Chris Archer had not won since August, with four losses in his first four starts this year, but he returned to form Monday night, throwing 6 2/3 scoreless innings for the Tampa Bay Rays and striking out 10 in a 2-0 win over the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field.
“Standing on the mound and having three pitches you know you can throw at any time and get a swing-and-miss, it gives you a lot of confidence,” said Archer, who had been 0-7 with a 6.39 ERA in his previous 10 starts.
The Rays (9-10) got a clutch win to open a three-game series against the division-leading Orioles (11-7), winning for the fourth time this season while scoring three runs or fewer.
Archer gave credit to a strong game called by catcher Curt Casali, who also drove in the game’s only runs, with a two-out RBI single in the fifth and a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch in the sixth.
“Just attack and not be afraid of what happened last time,” Casali said of Archer’s April 8 game at Baltimore, when the Orioles hit four home runs off him in a 6-1 loss. “As you guys saw, he executed pretty well.”
Archer had his longest and best outing of the season, and the Rays bullpen closed it out by committee, with Erasmo Ramirez pitching a 1-2-3 eighth and Ramirez, Xavier Cedeno and Alex Colome each getting one out in the ninth. For Colome, the one-out save was his fourth of the season.
Gold Glove center fielder Kevin Kiermaier made a running, sliding catch for the second out of the ninth.
For Archer, it was his fifth career scoreless start with at least 10 strikeouts, a Rays record.
“A lot of pitches early that appeared as a pitch you want to hit and then it left there. That’s what good pitchers do,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “It’s like really good hitters with a track record, you know at some point, somebody’s going to pay. We got caught with a guy with a real good track record finding his step tonight against us.”
Casali, who had three RBIs all season in 36 at-bats entering Monday, came through with a two-out RBI single in the fifth, then leaned in for a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch from reliever Vance Worley in the sixth to make it a 2-0 lead.
Archer and Orioles starter Kevin Gausman were both dominant early, each taking a shutout into the fifth inning.
“He was pounding the strike zone — that’s the guy we’ve been missing,” Showalter said.
Archer got five straight outs by strikeout in the first and second innings, holding Baltimore scoreless through six on just four hits while striking out nine.
Gausman, making his season debut after coming off the disabled list with a shoulder injury, matched Archer zero for zero until the fifth inning, striking out seven along the way.
The Rays took the lead in the fifth, after Steven Souza had walked, with Casali up and two outs. Casali ripped a single down the left-field line and Souza never hesitated, sliding home and beating the throw to the plate for a 1-0 lead. The Rays loaded the bases but Gausman got out of the jam, though he was done for the night after throwing 91 pitches in five innings.
Pedro Alvarez, who came into the game hitting .108, doubled to lead off the third, but Archer stranded him there with three quick outs. Alvarez had another double with two outs in the fifth, but Archer struck out Jonathan Schoop to end the inning.