Archer undone by Rays' error in 3-2 loss to Nats
WASHINGTON—On a day when "pine tar" was the trendy phrase, Chris Archer dealt with his own bit of drama -- the nerves of a major league debut.
The 23-year-old right-hander held his own against Stephen Strasburg -- and even allowed fewer earned runs than the Washington Nationals ace -- but a first-inning error made the difference in the Tampa Bay Rays' 3-2 loss Wednesday night.
"I don't think anything hit me until I went out there to warm up," Archer said. "I saw my parents in the stand and it was really surreal. Then I saw a group of my friends and it was like, all those workouts at 6 a.m. and running all those sprints, it's paying off right now. I definitely shed a couple of tears."
After a rough start, Archer (0-1) faced the minimum over his final five innings. His final line: three hits, three runs, one earned run, seven strikeouts, one walk and a wild pitch.
"I'm glad we did it in the first," Washington manager Davey Johnson said. "You have to tip your hat to that kid Archer. It looked like he was awful nervous that first inning. We had him on the ropes. He settled down and pitched a heck of a ball game."
Archer, a fifth-round draft choice by Cleveland in 2006, became the first pitcher to start for the Rays who wasn't drafted by the team since Matt Garza on Sept. 30, 2010, at Kansas City -- ending a major-league record streak of 232 games.
On a summer solstice evening hot enough to melt tar off any surface, Strasburg and Archer brought the heat. Strasburg's fastball clocked in the high-90s on the radar gun, Archer's in the mid-90s, both besting the 93 on the thermometer when the game began.
Strasburg (9-1) struck out 10 allowed five hits and two runs to win his sixth straight start. Tyler Clippard picked up his 10th save.
Pitchers on both sides were on extra alert one night after Rays reliever Joel Peralta was ejected for having pine tar in his glove, igniting a skirmish of words between Johnson and Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon.
Before the first pitch was thrown, Strasburg saw home plate umpire Jeff Nelson walk toward the mound and assumed there was more gamesmanship afoot.
"I thought he was going to check my glove," Strasburg said.
As it turned out, the ump only wanted to see the ball, which had bounced in the dirt on the throw to second following Strasburg's final warm-up toss.
The game then passed without incident, except for the widespread boos that greeted Peralta when he entered the game with one out in the eighth inning. Peralta is likely to be suspended by Major League Baseball, but he remains eligible to pitch while the league office examines his glove and continues its investigation.
Using a different mitt, Peralta retired the two batters he faced without needing much encouragement from his manager.
"He was jacked up enough," Maddon said. "He didn't need me to say anything to him."
Archer gave up a double to Steve Lombardozzi to start the game, then an RBI single to Bryce Harper. Harper, trying to advance from second to third on a groundball to shortstop Elliot Johnson, scored when Johnson threw wide of third.
A second unearned run came home when Ryan Zimmerman scored on a two-out single by Ian Desmond.
The Rays have now allowed more unearned runs (38) than all of last season.
"Too many early mistakes," Maddon said. "Everybody gets ready properly and everybody does the right things. It's just one of those mental moments that we've got to get rid of, otherwise we could have won that game."
Jose Molina's home run got the Rays on the board in the second, and Tampa Bay picked up another run in third on Hideki Matsui's RBI single.
NOTES: Rays OF Matt Joyce sat out with a tight back. He had to leave Tuesday's game in the fifth inning when the back tightened up. ... Tampa Bay formally placed RHP Jeremy Hellickson on the 15-day DL with right shoulder inflammation to make room for Archer.