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Archer on target with 3-pitch mix in St. Louis

'Flaco Fuerte' sets tone in Rays' 10-inning win with 7 IP
MLB.com @wwchastain

One run on five hits in seven innings normally adds up to a 'W' on any pitcher's ledger, no matter what team he pitches for.

Call Chris Archer the exception. Sunday afternoon, he again had great stuff but came away with a no-decision in the Rays' 3-2 win over the Cardinals in 10 innings at Busch Stadium.

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One run on five hits in seven innings normally adds up to a 'W' on any pitcher's ledger, no matter what team he pitches for.

Call Chris Archer the exception. Sunday afternoon, he again had great stuff but came away with a no-decision in the Rays' 3-2 win over the Cardinals in 10 innings at Busch Stadium.

View Full Game Coverage

Archer -- going by "Flaco Fuerte" for Players Weekend -- didn't seem to care about not getting the decision based on the outcome.

"Yeah it was huge," Archer said, when asked about the end result. "St. Louis is a good team, really good team. So for us to get to the back end of their bullpen like we did, shows a lot about who we are."

Yes, Archer allowed a home run to Kolten Wong and issued a walk, but the right-hander also racked up eight strikeouts and pitched as though he had a deep understanding of the Rays' plight. They are a team fighting to remain in the American League Wild Card race, three games behind Minnesota for a postseason spot. Each of the 30 games left on the schedule will be magnified. Archer did what an ace does in such cases by keeping the Cardinals in check.

"Arch, when he gets going, gets in that rhythm, he's got a lot of confidence and he's able to slow things down," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "I thought that's what he did really well today."

Video: TB@STL: Archer retires Carpenter to end threat in 3rd

More and more, Archer is resembling a pitcher who has pushed on to a more exalted land, where the elite reside. He is walking fewer and striking out more -- nine walks and 69 strikeouts in his last 50 1/3 innings. He's allowed just nine earned runs in his past five starts.

Sunday, Archer pointed to the fact he was able to effectively use a three-pitch repertoire of fastball, slider and changeup. Many times in the past, he's been too reliant on the fastball-slider combination.

"Being able to use three pitches in any count helped me, 'cause like I said, their lineup is solid, one through eight. It's a great lineup," Archer said. "Being able to use my changeup and my slider when I was behind was a difference-maker.

"I'm starting to trust [the changeup] against left-handed hitters, and I'm starting to sprinkle it in against righties. It's been a good pitch for me."

Tweet from @ChrisArcher22: The people in St. Louis are very respectful. @Cardinals have a great fan base. It was my pleasure to perform in front of u. #PlayersWeekend

Sunday was the first time Archer had ever faced the Cardinals, and he definitely made an impression.

"Archer was good," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "It was like watching [Carlos Martinez] when Carlos is on with the live fastball, the breaking ball in any count. You can't guess along with him, and the stuff is so good you're going to have to jump on a mistake. Kolten getting us going was really the one chance we had to put a mark."

Cardinals infielder Greg Garcia added: "He has electric stuff, and he doesn't give in. He doesn't just rely on throwing 95 [mph] or anything like that. He has a really good slider that he'll throw on any count, and he was effective with his stuff today."

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2004.

Tampa Bay Rays, Chris Archer