ST. PETERSBURG -- The near-20,000 fans at Tropicana Field simultaneously rose to their feet as Chris Archer took the walk back to the dugout. They were applauding his 118 pitches and his 7 2/3 innings. To that point, he'd allowed just two runs. It was a stat line indicative of the ace he'd been before and his mastery during Saturday's game.
But while Archer was great in Tampa Bay's 4-3 loss to Houston, he was never able to shut the door. After Brad Miller homered in the bottom of the third, he allowed two straight hits and a run to start the top of the fourth.
And after Evan Longoria homered to get the lead back in the bottom of the sixth, Archer served up a game-tying home run to Carlos Gomez in the top of the seventh. The only reason he left in the eighth was because he couldn't retire his last batter -- one that would eventually score.
"I don't really want to talk about myself," Archer said after the loss. "It's not about me. Let's skip that for tonight."
Manager Kevin Cash said that after Archer's last game, when he struggled with a high pitch count, they talked with Archer about mixing his pitches in at different times. He executed on that Saturday and was able to last more than seven innings for just the second time in his last 14 starts.
Cash said he threw fastballs inside with intent and for strikes. He threw the breaking ball behind in the count for strikes. When he was successful last season, as an All-Star, that's what made him so. When he's not able to throw that slider for strikes, he's not as effective.
Even though Archer didn't get the big pitches he needed, his line reads as one worthy of the standing ovation he got.
"Archer was outstanding, great to see him," Cash said. "He had everything going."
Sam Blum is a reporter for MLB.com based in St. Petersburg. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.