Archer finishes strong to allow Rays' comeback

Right-hander not his dominant self, but closes with three shutout innings

Archer finishes strong to allow Rays' comeback

WASHINGTON -- As the ace of a division-leading club, Chris Archer is used to carrying the Rays to victory. Thursday night, when his best stuff didn't make the trip to D.C., he relied on being good enough and getting a strong performance from the players around him for a 5-3 win over the Nationals.

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"Those are the best because you have outings like you have against Felix [Hernandez] where you don't give up any runs and get a no-decision, or you give up one run and get a loss, but you know in the back of your mind it's going to be balanced out at some point," Archer said after the game. "You don't get too frustrated in the moment. You're like, 'All right, this is baseball. Everything balances out in baseball.'"

Archer walked Denard Span to start the game and then allowed two runs on two hits and another walk before the first inning ended.

"I think I got a little too slider happy in the first inning," Archer said. "They were good sliders, but way off the plate, almost non-competitive pitches."

In the second inning, he allowed a third run on three more hits. By the end of his first two innings, he'd thrown more than 50 pitches and found himself in a 3-1 hole.

His last three innings, interrupted only by a 17-minute rain delay and a Rays offensive outburst, were his sharpest.

"I've been really good at pitching to contact, so it's just like, 'Be yourself,'" Archer said. "Continue to be convicted, continue to trust. Where my pitch count was in the fifth inning was good considering in the first two innings I threw 50-plus pitches."

In the top of the sixth inning, the Rays broke through for four runs, giving them the lead and putting Archer in line for the win. His spot in the order came up with two outs and a runner on third, and, because he had 89 pitches under his belt, manager Kevin Cash called him back from the on-deck circle.

"I definitely respect the manager's decisions, but at the same time [I was] frustrated," Archer said. "Because my last three innings were quick, strong. My slider was where it needed to be. My fastball command was where it needed to be. You know, I train really hard to alleviate the bullpen. … I take pride in being that guy that can withstand tough situations, pitches, whatever. But again, team wins, number one concern every time I pitch and that's what happened, so overall, you have to be happy and satisfied."

His final line -- five innings, three earned runs, three strikeouts and two walks -- was not one of the dominant performances he's treated fans to time and time again this season.

"He's set his standard so high. He's going to get hit sometimes," Cash said. "This team can hit. You're talking about arguably one of the best players in the game over here."

Still, it was good enough to improve his record to 8-4 on the season.

Jacob Emert is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.