ARLINGTON, Texas — Chris Archer watched Tuesday’s marathon from the comfort of the team hotel, watched as the innings piled up as Rays manager Joe Maddon went through his bullpen pitcher after pitcher after pitcher.
That’s when Archer knew what would be required of him Wednesday when it was his turn to take the mound against the Rangers at Globe Life Park — pitch deep into the game.
And he did.
Archer went seven innings, setting a career-high in strikeouts along the way, as the Rays rolled to a 10-1 victory against the Rangers.
Archer struck out 12 and took a no-hitter into the fifth inning. He was backed by three home runs and enough offense for the Rays to win a couple of games now that the pitching staff has decided to cap the other team’s offense at three runs.
Wednesday was the ninth straight game in which the Rays pitchers allowed three or fewer runs.
Archer allowed one, and it came in the fifth inning when the game was already in hand.
“That was exactly what the doctor ordered,” Rays manager Joe Maddon.
Tuesday’s 14-inning loss wrecked a bullpen that was already overworked. The Rays relievers had picked up 14 2/3 innings in the three previous games. As a result, Brandon Gomes was recalled from Triple-A Durham and infielder Cole Figueroa was sent back to Durham.
The Rays had an extra arm for the ‘pen, but they also had one less position player on the bench. And with Desmond Jennings not in the lineup because of a sore shoulder sustained Tuesday when he crashed into the wall, Maddon was short on options should the game turn into a late-inning chess match with the Rangers bullpen.
The offense jumped all over RangerS starter Miles Mikolas, scoring five times in the first two at-bats with the help of three home runs — as many as the Rays hit in the first eight games of this trip.
Archer did the rest, pitching seven innings of four-hit ball.
“I’ve been in similar situations and was able to grind through and get into the sixth (inning),” Archer said. “(Wednesday) things were able to turn around. Got a big double play that really cut down on my pitch count. I just trusted everything. I didn’t think about anything negative. I just thought about each individual pitch and let the game play the way it was supposed to.”
Matt Joyce gave Archer a 1-0 lead with a 419-foot home run in the first inning that sailed into the second deck in right field.
Archer retired the first batter he faced in the bottom of the inning then walked the next two to bring pitching coach Jim Hickey to the mound. Archer got out of the jam by getting Adrian Beltre to hit into a force out then struck out Alex Rios for his first strikeout of the ninth.
The Rios strikeout started a run of six straight strikeouts for Archer, which is one shy of the team record seven straight fanned by Andy Sonnanstine.
“It looked like I dominated because I had a lot of strikeouts, but I had a lot of help, too,” Archer said.
Meanwhile, the Rays jumped on Mikolas in the second inning. Sean Rodriguez and Brandon Guyer each hit two-run homers and the Rays were well on their way to a no-stress victory.
“It feels little weird to be honest you and let off the gas peddle,” Joyce said. “A little unfamiliar territory, I guess. You don’t you’re going to win the game but it takes the pressure off a little bit.”
Having a big lead is one thing. Making it stand is another.
Archer made it stand.
“Even after we’d gotten the lead it was still up to Archie to take command of the moment and he did and that was nice,” Maddon said. “Sometimes a young starting pitcher will catch a wave like that and all of a sudden it can get away really quickly, but he held on.”