The Tampa Bay Rays ended July on a down note, but it still ended up being the best month in franchise history.
No AL rookie pitcher in the past 92 seasons had a better July than Chris Archer.
The right-hander goes for a fifth consecutive winning start Friday night when the Rays continue their push for the AL East lead with the San Francisco Giants making their second-ever visit.
Going for its 24th win in 28 games, Tampa Bay (64-44) finished with three hits in a 7-0 loss to visiting Arizona on Wednesday.
The Rays, though, went 21-5 in July, and they would have opened this three-game series percentage points ahead of Boston for the East lead had the Red Sox not rallied for six runs in the ninth inning of Thursday’s 8-7 victory over Seattle.
“I really can’t get too upset,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said Wednesday. “It’s been a pretty good July, one of the funnest Julys I’ve ever participated in.”
Archer (6-3, 2.39 ERA) enjoyed a historic July, going 4-0 with a 0.73 ERA in five starts after throwing a two-hitter in Saturday’s 1-0 road win over the Yankees. Since 1921, that is the lowest ERA by any AL rookie in July.
“Right now, it’s a combination of me being myself and the information that (pitching coach Jim) Hickey gives me,” Archer, who has two shutouts in his last three starts, told the Rays’ official website. “He tells me what the go-to pitch is for certain hitters. Otherwise, he wants me to pitch to my strengths.”
Archer gets his first look at the Giants (48-59), who arrive in St. Petersburg after rallying for a 2-1 victory at Philadelphia on Thursday.
Joaquin Arias and pinch-hitter Roger Kieschnick delivered RBI singles in the top of the ninth inning, then Sergio Romo worked around a bases-loaded jam with no outs in the bottom half.
San Francisco, last in the NL West, has won two in a row following a 1-8 stretch.
“I think I was pretty fortunate,” Romo said. “… It was a great win for us.”
The reigning World Series champs go for their first three-game win streak since July 11-13 with Madison Bumgarner (10-6, 2.76) on the hill.
The All-Star left-hander leads the Giants in wins and innings, but the club hasn’t done much to support him lately, scoring once in his last two outings.
Bumgarner has surrendered one run in those starts after his eight scoreless innings were wasted in Saturday’s 1-0 loss to the Cubs.
“What a great job Bum did,” manager Bruce Bochy told the Giants’ official website. “We’re trying to figure out what happened with the chances we had.”
Bumgarner, who has never faced the Rays, will have to figure out a way to pitch to rookie Wil Myers, who’s batting .457 with four homers and 12 RBIs during a 12-game hitting streak.
The Rays, who had their seven-game interleague home winning streak snapped Wednesday, haven’t dropped two straight overall since June 26 and 28.
Tampa Bay won two of three from the visiting Giants from June 8-10, 2004, to even the all-time series at three games apiece.