Morales a lingering thorn in Archer's side

Morales a lingering thorn in Archer's side

ST. PETERSBURG -- On any given night in baseball, a hitter can have a certain pitcher's number. On Friday night, Blue Jays slugger Kendrys Morales was that type of hitter, and Rays starter Chris Archer was once again on the receiving end of the headache.

Morales went 3-for-4 with a double and two home runs against Archer in an 8-4 win. In 25 career at-bats against the Rays' ace, Morales has a .600 batting average, including eight extra-base hits -- three of those home runs. Morales owns a career 1.775 OPS when Archer is on the mound.

"I truly don't know how I do it," Morales said through a translator. "I just tried to stay aggressive. Archer is one of the best pitchers in the league right now. All his pitches are really hard to hit, so I actually don't know how I do it other than trying to stay aggressive."

The Blue Jays' designated hitter spoiled an otherwise stellar start by Archer.

"Kendrys Morales is tough, and I know he's had a lot of success against Arch, and it seems like he's had success against us any time we face him," Rays manager Kevin Cash said.

Morales sparked the Blue Jays' offense with a leadoff double in the fifth, then scored on a Justin Smoak single.

Morales connected again two innings later, sending 95.5-mph fastball from Archer over the fence in right-center. According to Statcast™, the ball traveled 409 feet and left his bat at 109.5 mph.

The blast, Morales' fifth of the season, tied the game at 3 and also ended Archer's night with a no-decision.

"As tough as Archer has been on us through his whole career, he's one of the top pitchers in the game, and he's also been very tough on us," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "But Morales has always hit him. It's hard to find guys that can do that against Archer."

Even after Archer's departure, the 33-year-old switch-hitter wasn't done. With two on and two out with a 2-2 count in the top of the eighth, Morales broke the tie with another towering blast to right, this time off reliever Jumbo Diaz, which also ended Diaz's night.

"That's why we got him, hitting big shots," Gibbons said. "He's even told us that through the month of April he was a slow starter, and he'll get going around May."

Morales' sixth home run of the year and third hit of the night pushed his season average to .243. His now has a team-high 20 RBIs this season.

"I just try to play hard and play good, and we got the win," Morales said.

J. Scott Butherus is a contributor to MLB.com based in St. Petersburg. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.