Archer goes six solid in victory over Blue Jays
Righty strikes out seven; Longoria ties franchise home run record
ST. PETERSBURG - Chris Archer certainly wasn't bothered by the Benjamins.
The 25-year-old right-hander responded well to his new contract extension, leading the Rays to a 7-2 victory over the Blue Jays Thursday night at Tropicana Field.
"I thought he started out really good, and then he hit just a little bit of a lull and then he came on strongly towards the end, but overall, really good performance on his part," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "The fastball was there when he wanted it to be. The slider again was really good early on and then he recaptured it later in the game so he did pitch well."
Evan Longoria capped the victory with a three-run homer in the seventh, the 163rd of his career, tying Carlos Pena for the franchise record.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Rays announced that Archer had agreed to a contract extension that could keep him in a Rays uniform through 2021 and pay him as much as $43.75 million. Archer earned the deal through talent and hard work. Both were on display in his first outing since putting a few extra bucks in his pocket.
Archer allowed two runs on four hits and two walks while striking out seven in six innings to pick up his first win of the season.
"I've never thought about [the money], so having it or not having a contract or money didn't affect me, because it's never been a thought in my mind while I've been between the lines," Archer said. "Obviously I thought about it during Spring Training, but I think it's part of me trying to strengthen myself mentally so the outside factors don't affect me while I'm between the lines.
"It's just baseball, I'm here to have fun; I'm here to execute. I was able to do that tonight with no other thought."
Longoria, who has signed two large extensions with the Rays, liked what he saw from Archer in the aftermath of the pitcher signing his extension.
"That was good to see," Longoria said. "I know both of the ones that I've been able to sign, I went out there a little more nervous the next couple of days.
"For pitchers it's different. You only get one opportunity every five days to go out there and do what they do. I think it really just speaks to his maturity as an individual and why the organization was so eager to make a deal happen with him. And ultimately it happened, and I think he went out there and proved that tonight."
The win earned the Rays a split of the four-game series while improving their record to 2-2 on the season.
"Those guys aren't going to go away," Longoria said. "It's not going to be easy. To open up against them, they pitched really well. It was good for us to get four games out of the way where we saw some good quality starting pitching and had to battle throughout every game we played against them. To come out with a split, you know, obviously, it's better than losing three out of four. That's a good quality ballclub. We played really well."
Toronto manager John Gibbons hoped for more.
"We wanted to win tonight," Gibbons said. "But against those four starters they threw against us, to get two wins, we gotta feel good. Especially after getting knocked around a little bit in that first game. So we're going home feeling good."
A swarming Rays offense gave Archer ample support against tough Blue Jays starter Brandon Morrow.
Ryan Hanigan singled in the second for his first hit with the Rays and his first RBI, as Matt Joyce, who had doubled, scored on the play.
David DeJesus, who missed the past two games after getting hit on his right foot on Monday night, tripled to right to open the Rays' third. Desmond Jennings followed with a chopper over third baseman Brett Lawrie's head that scored DeJesus. The Rays' speedster turned the hit into a hustling double with a head-first slide into second, where he executed a swim move to avoid the tag.
Ben Zobrist singled through the right side to drive home Jennings, then moved to third on Longoria's single to right. Zobrist scored the Rays' third run in the third when James Loney hit into a 6-4-3 double play putting the Rays up 4-0.
"They seemed to be more aggressive with runners in scoring position and that's what happened," Morrow said. "I still thought I made some good pitches. You could tell they weren't giving away at-bats, not trying to come out of their shoes, but working counts and they did a good job."
The Blue Jays answered in the fourth on Dioner Navarro's sacrifice fly and Lawrie's infield single to cut the lead to 4-2.
Longoria put the finishing touch on the victory when he deposited a 2-1 pitch from Esmil Rogers into the left-field stands with two aboard for a 7-2 Rays lead.
Longoria's home run was the Rays' first of the season.
"The hits fell for us tonight," Maddon said. "As long as you're playing good baseball and you adhere to what you believe are the right things to do, you're going to be okay."