Dominant Archer finds groove, blanks Padres

Rays' ace tosses at least seven scoreless innings for first time all year

Dominant Archer finds groove, blanks Padres

ST. PETERSBURG -- It's been an up-and-down season for Chris Archer. And with an MLB-leading 16 losses, there's been more down than up, as the 2015 American League All-Star hadn't pitched seven full innings without allowing a run this season.

That all changed on Wednesday. Archer was given a two-run lead in the first inning, and he tossed 7 1/3 scoreless innings to give the Rays their fourth straight win, a 2-0 contest that completed the sweep over San Diego.

"I felt good today. It was also nice to have the guys back there making great plays," Archer said. "Any time I can give [Xavier Cedeno] a night off ... or Erasmo [Ramirez] and some of those other guys, it's a good day."

Souza Jr.'s diving catch

The last time Archer went at least seven scoreless innings was Aug. 20, 2015. Wednesday's outing was his fourth scoreless start of the year, and he's posted a 3.06 ERA since the All-Star break. Archer has pitched at least six innings in eight straight outings.

Right now, Archer's 4.18 season ERA is as low as it's been since after his Opening Day start.

"It's a [Padres] lineup that comes in that's really only seen him on video, and there's not a ton of history there," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "So any time that happens, it's generally advantage Arch."

Archer didn't allow a hit until there were two outs in the third inning, and he was hitting 98 mph on the radar gun in the first. After two batters reached in the fifth, Archer induced an inning-ending groundout, and he cruised there until he was taken out in the eighth.

The crowd gave him a standing ovation, and he tipped his cap to them in return. Brad Miller, who provided the only offense with his two-run homer in the first inning, joked that Archer didn't need any run support to get the win.

Miller's two-run homer

"You look at what we've done and we've been not just quality, but Rays quality," Archer said. "A quality start is not what we consider quality. We hold ourselves to a higher standard here. It's just what it is. We did catch a lot of heat in the first half of the season when we were pitching mediocre. It's nice that we've gotten in a groove."

Sam Blum is a reporter for MLB.com based in Tampa. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.