The Tampa Rays ended the first half of the 2013 season by defeating the Houston Astros by a final score of 5-0. The Rays close out the first half by winning 10 of their last 11 games, 14 of 16, and 17 of 21 to push their record to 55-41. The Astros finish their 3-city 8-game road with a record of 2-6 and they fall to 33-61.
The story of the game was Chris Archer (4-3, 2.96 ERA) who pitched his first complete game shutout in his professional career. In fact, it was his first time in his professional career that he had worked more than 7 innings. He only allowed 5 hits, struck out 8, did not walk a batter, and had 10 ground ball outs accounting for 11 outs. He had entered the game among the AL leaders in pitches per inning (17.7) but only needed 112 (career high) to go the distance (12.45 P/inning).
He joins James Shields as the only Rays pitcher to throw a complete game shutout with at least 8 strikeouts and no walks. Shields pulled the feat 3 times (2x in 2012 and 1x in 2008).
Joe Maddon called Archer’s start a growth game. “A mind once stretched out has a difficult time going back to it’s original form. That’s a situational moment as a baseball player where you stretch yourself to a complete game shutout as a young starter – that can really open a lot of doors moving forward.”
Over his last 5 starts Archer has a 3-0 record with a 1.68 ERA (6ER/32IP) allowing 21 hits striking out 21 and walking just 7 and improves to 4-1 with a 2.30 ERA (11ER/43IP) at Tropicana Field.
The Rays offense provided Archer an early lead on a 2-out 2-run double by Evan Longoria in the 1st inning scoring Desmond Jennings from 1st base. The double by Longoria was his 341st extra-base which moved him into second place on the Rays all-time extra base hits leaders ahead of BJ Upton and second only to Carl Crawford (424)
The Astros handed the Rays their second run on an throwing error on a bunt by Jose Lobaton allowed Kelly Johnson to score from first and Lobaton to advance to second. After moving up to third on a single by Yunel Escobar he came in to score on a ground ball double play off the bat of Desmond Jennings.
Desmond Jennings factored into the scoring again in the bottom of the 6th off reliever Paul Clemens. With Kelly Johnson at 1st and 2-outs in the inning he launched his 11th home run on the year to give the Rays a 5-0 lead.
Jennings played a role in 4 of the Rays 5 runs on the afternoon but he also went far to his left to flag down a line dive off the bat of Jason Castro to end the game and preserve the complete game shutout for Chris Archer. On the last out of the game Archer said “I don’t even know. I was lost. I was lost in the moment. I saw the ball didn’t hit the ground and then I got super exited…for me to put it in to words would be an injustice.”
Desmond Jennings, Ben Zobrist, Kelly Johnson, and Yune Escobar all had multi-hit games with Kelly Johnson leading the way with 3. Every member of the starting lineup had a base hit except Sean Rodriguez who went 0-3 with 3 strikeouts.
Yunel Escobar was removed from the game after beating out an infield single due to a mild right hamstring strain. After the game Joe Maddon called it a mild strain, said he could have stayed in the game under other circumstances, and should be ready to go by Friday.
Yunel Escobar was originally charged an error on a J.D. Martinez ground ball in the top of the 2nd inning which would have ended a streak of 51 consecutive games without an error and falling a game short of the franchise record for errorless games by a shortstop held by Chris Gomez with 52 set in 2002. After the game the official scorer changed the ruling to a hit and now both Escobar and Gomes share the record with 52 straight games.