CLEVELAND -- The strike zone proved to be an elusive target for Chris Archer on Monday night.
In the five innings Archer worked against the Indians, just 57 of the 101 pitches he threw went for strikes. That translated to an uncharacteristic six walks, a five-run first, and the second loss of the season for the talented right-hander.
The five-run first equaled the most runs Archer has allowed in a single inning. The most recent of those five-run innings came in Toronto against the Blue Jays on Sept. 26, 2015.
Lonnie Chisenhall came through with the big blow against Archer in the first on Monday night. With two aboard, Archer fell behind 2-0 to the Indians' slugger before throwing a 94.4 mph four-seamer. Chisenhall planted the ball over the wall in right-center field.
"It's a good thing," said Indians manager Terry Francona when asked about the Indians' five-run first. "With Archer, his stuff is so good. We were able to lay off. He was scattering some balls early. Fortunately we didn't go out of the zone too much. When Lonnie gets a big hit it ends up being a crooked number, which ends up probably winning the game for us."
Archer seemed to settle down a little after the first, which he attributed to a mental adjustment.
"I just said, 'You know what? I've got nothing else to lose right now,'" Archer said. "'I might as well be in the zone. Might as well make mistakes in the zone as opposed to out of the zone.' And I did give up a couple of hits and walked some people after that, but I was able to at least give us five after a really tough first inning."
Cleveland has not been kind to Archer, who began his professional career in the Indians' organization. In four career starts at Progressive Field, Archer is now 0-4 with a 6.35 ERA. In six career starts against the Indians, Archer is 0-6 with a 6.00 ERA, making him the first pitcher to lose each of his first six career starts against the Indians since Boston's Frank Sullivan did so from 1954-1955.
Some pitchers confess to feeling better vibes at different parks than others. Archer said that he has no such problems at Progressive Field.
"No, I mean, I've had some mediocre games, and I've had a really good game here," Archer said. "And today was probably the worst game I've had in a while. Since Spring Training I've been throwing the ball really well. I'm not saying that I'm cool with it. But it's a long season and it's already behind me."
Rays manager Kevin Cash allowed that he was "a little bit" surprised at Archer's outing.
"You learn to kind of anticipate that Arch is going to get out there and give you really good innings, really good starts," Cash said. "Any time a team puts a five-spot up that quick, it's a little surprising."
According to Statcast™ research, Archer's outing featured the fewest four-seamers he's thrown in a game this season (39). It also tied the least amount of called strikes he's gotten on his four-seamer this season (8), which he set in his previous start.
"I think the first inning, I just came out a little too passive," said Archer, not reading too much into the start. "Outside the first inning, I felt like who I typically am. Not perfect by any means, but closer to who I typically am. Just need to execute at a higher level and be a little bit more aggressive in the first inning."