Archer falls short in pitchers' duel with Kluber

Righty gets hard-luck loss after 7 2/3 strong innings in last start of '14

Archer falls short in pitchers' duel with Kluber

CLEVELAND -- Joe Maddon reminisced prior to Friday night's game against the Indians at Progressive Field. A year ago, the Rays had played the Indians in a one-game playoff and came away winners to advance to the Division Series against the Red Sox. The setting had been magical, the outcome terrific -- why, Larry King even called the Rays manager.

King did not call on Friday, and the Rays had little at stake other than pride, but they continued to play hard, even if they did lose, 1-0, to a team whose postseason hopes were still alive.

The Rays have played 39 games decided by a shutout this season, which is the most by any Major League team since the 1968 Indians played in 43 such contests. They have won 21.

Corey Kluber started for the Indians, and the right-hander put forth a compelling argument for why he should be given serious consideration for the American League Cy Young Award.

"Once [Kluber] gets ahead he just goes right at you, attacks you," said Kevin Kiermaier, who was the only Rays player to reach as far as third base after hitting a two-out triple in the fifth. "... The four-seamers are 97 and he throws two-seamers that are 93-95.

"It's tough because you don't know what's coming at you. He always has you guessing and you can't give up on certain pitches, and he did a good job tonight of really mowing us down with all four pitches that he has."

Kluber struck out the side in the first, and by the end of the seventh he had struck out nine Rays hitters. Ryan Hanigan became Kluber's ninth victim when he went down looking with two aboard to end the seventh.

Not only did Hanigan's strikeout end one of the Rays' only legitimate threats, it also tied the Indians' staff with the 2013 Tigers for the most strikeouts in a single season.

Kluber struck out David DeJesus for the second out in the eighth to establish a new Major League strikeout record.

"He was getting a lot of early 0-2, 1-2 counts," Maddon said. "Elevated fastball was his friend."

Meanwhile, Chris Archer made his final start of the season for the Rays and pitched beautifully.

"[Archer] had everything going," Maddon said. "Utilized the changeup. Everything kept getting better, and I like when that happens game in progress."

Unfortunately for Archer and the Rays, he served up a solo home run to Jose Ramirez in the first. The way Kluber was carving up the Rays, one run looked like more than enough.

And it was.

Kluber allowed five hits while striking out 11 and walking two in eight innings to earn his 18th win of the season. Cody Allen pitched the ninth to preserve the win and record his 24th save.

"Early on, it was the fastball," said Kluber of his outing. "I think that set up more of the offspeed stuff late. Overall, I think the big thing was mixing up speeds on them. They were really aggressive at certain points in the game, so we were kind of taking advantage of that. We got some easy outs, first pitches, things like that, by just mixing up speeds."

Archer celebrated his 26th birthday Friday night and deserved a better fate than his ninth loss given his performance. When Archer left the game with two outs in the eighth, he reached the dugout, where Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey met him.

"When I came out, that's the first thing Hickey said, 'Start to finish, that was the best one of the season,'" Archer said. "And I've had some really good games this year. I've actually pitched deeper into some games this year. But it stinks because the first objective for a starting pitcher is to get a team win."

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.