"[He was] as good as he's been all year," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. " ... He looked unhittable, and [he was] doing it to some good hitters."
Archer set a new Tampa Bay record by retiring the first 19 batters he faced. Through six innings, the right-hander struck out 10 using just 69 pitches. Jose Iglesias' infield single with one out in the seventh finally broke Archer's spell. Matt Garza had set the previous club record by retiring the first 18 batters he faced on April 30, 2009, against the Red Sox.
"I felt like I pitched well," Archer said. "Good stuff. My arm felt good. And it stinks to lose, regardless of how you pitched. My No. 1 goal is to go out there and help the team get a win. ... But it wasn't due to a lack of effort. Everybody gave max effort. So, it happens, turn the page. We have an off-day tomorrow. Get rolling again on this road trip."
After the hit, Archer suffered through some bad luck. Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera botched a grounder that appeared to be an inning-ending double play. That miscue proved costly, manifesting itself in two unearned runs. Archer stuck up for Cabrera.
"That's the way baseball is," Archer said. "We play tremendous defense. Nobody's at fault. A hundred more times we'll have that play to Cabrera, and it will be made. That's the one anomaly. And he's allowed to have that. He's been great for us all year."
Archer allowed no earned runs on three hits and no walks while striking out 11 in seven innings, but he came away with his eighth loss of the year. It was only the fourth time since 2000 that a pitcher has taken the loss after pitching seven or more innings and allowing no earned runs while striking out at least 10.
Archer allowed that he was cognizant of having a perfect game going.
"I find that hard to believe, that people don't think about it, when they say they didn't even know," Archer said. "Obviously, you know. For me, it makes me a little more relaxed, a little more focused, because I'm not afraid to fail. I'm not afraid to not throw a perfect game, because I've never done it before.
"Obviously I knew, and I would think about it between innings. But like I always say, regardless of the situation, when I'm on that mound ... I'm thinking about what I can control, and that's where that baseball goes -- 60 feet, 6 inches away."
Archer is confident of his abilities and did not seem shocked in the least about how he pitched.
"Honestly, I possess the stuff to do that," Archer said. "It's just baseball doesn't allow it to happen, but very rarely. Forever I've had stuff, but executing it. ... That's why it's so special when people accomplish [a perfect game]."
Archer pointed to his execution for separating Wednesday's outing from other outings this season.
"Probably overall, execution of everything was there," he said. "And that's the difference of an average outing and an above-average outing: how well and frequently you execute."
Archer came up empty while attempting to pitch a perfect game Wednesday. But rest assured, with the stuff he has, he will find himself in similar situations in the future.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. Listen to his
podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.