ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP)—Desmond Jennings’ first instinct was to simply try to move the potential tying run into scoring position. Fortunately for the Tampa Bay Rays, he settled on that being his second option.
“I haven’t been hitting the ball well, so in that situation with no outs, I thought about it,” Jennings said after hitting a first-pitch, two-run homer to the deepest part of the ball park to help rookie Chris Archer beat the Baltimore Orioles 2-1 on Friday night. “I was going to give myself one pitch to strike it, and if that didn’t work, then maybe try to lay down a bunt.”
The 24-year-old right-hander spent the first two months of the season at Triple-A Durham and allowed five runs and seven hits in four innings of a 5-0 loss to Cleveland after being promoted to the majors last weekend.
“It was one of those special nights that you try to tap into every game, and I was able to tap into it from pitch one. … I felt like I was in control the whole time, honestly. I was just sticking with what I felt and what was working,” Archer said. “My misses were very small, so I was able to stay within myself. I didn’t have to change anything. I continued to execute pitches.”
Jennings homered to center field in the seventh inning off Jason Hammel (7-4), who lost on the road for the first time this year after winning his first six decisions away from Camden Yards.
“Properly struck,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “That ball’s like Manny Ramirez territory. Not many go there. When you hit a home run to dead center field and you know it the moment the ball is struck, you’ve hit it well.”
Archer allowed one run, walked two and struck out two to earn his second career victory. Joel Peralta worked the eighth for the Rays, and Fernando Rodney finished the combined two-hitter with a perfect ninth for his 13th save in 18 opportunities.
“That’s what we’re supposed to look like. We’re supposed to pitch well, hope to get a timely hit and play some defense,” Maddon said. “Listen. I’m not begrudging the offense. I’ll take it. But long-term for us to win and get back to the playoffs, win the World Series, we have to pitch like that.”
Hammel followed up his shortest outing of the season by taking a 1-0 lead into the seventh. The right-hander allowed five runs in three-plus innings of a 10-3 loss to Detroit last Saturday and was ejected from that game after yielding home runs to three consecutive batters and then hitting Matt Tuiasosopo with a pitch in the left shoulder.
The Orioles starter yielded two runs and six hits in 6 2-3 innings this time.
“Runs were at a premium. One mistake cost us,” Hammel said.
“That’s baseball. It’s a funny game, sometimes. You can have a pitcher’s duel, you can have a slugfest,” Hammel added. “I like the pitching duel because it’s just fun. It’s suspenseful. Both guys are on their game and executing pitches. Tonight, it just ended up being the one pitch that cost us and myself the game.”
Baltimore manager Buck Showalter agreed.
“You have two good teams that played a close game and pitched well on both sides. A small margin of error,” Showalter said. “They pitched just a tad better.”
Archer began the season as one of the top prospects in Tampa Bay’s minor league system. He made six appearances in the majors last season, including four starts, going 1-3 with a 4.60 ERA.
The Rays starter walked Chris Dickerson and Nate McLouth ahead of Machado’s two-out RBI single in the third. He gave up a two-out double to Flaherty in the fifth, but escaped further damage when Adam Jones grounded to shortstop to end the inning.
Hammel, the first Baltimore pitcher to enter June with at least seven wins since Mike Mussina in 1999, was just as good through six innings.
The Rays stranded runners in scoring position in the third and fourth innings, with Hammel retiring Kelly Johnson on a fly ball to right field to end one threat and getting Luke Scott to fly to center to stop the other.
Four the seven hits Archer allowed in his first start of the season against Cleveland came off his changeup. He didn’t have that problem Friday night.
“Last game I was just a little off, I didn’t execute pitches to some good hitters. I felt like I was in the same situation tonight, and … I was able to implement a changeup,” to Nick Markakis who popped out with two runners on base in the third, Archer said.
“Last game I left that pitch up. So it was good to see my work come to … what’s the word?—fruition,” Archer added. “I’ve never actually said that; I’ve typed it, but I’ve never actually said it, so I was a little unsure.”
NOTES: Reigning AL Cy Young Award winner David Price threw his first bullpen session since being placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left triceps. The Tampa Bay ace said he felt good after throwing 38 pitches. Price is scheduled to throw again Monday and hopes to pitch in a simulated game soon. … Markakis, the Orioles’ right fielder, rejoined the team after missing two games to attend his grandmother’s funeral. … Orioles first base coach Wayne Kirby missed Friday’s game to attend his daughter’s graduation. Einar Diaz filled in for Kirby, who will return Saturday. … Baltimore optioned OF Xavier Avery to Triple-A Norfolk and recalled LHP Mike Belfiore from Norfolk. … Rays LF Kelly Johnson returned to the lineup after sitting out two games due to back tightness. … Showalter said INF Brian Roberts (right hamstring) is making progress in his rehab program. Roberts, who was at the game, has been doing baseball activities at the Orioles’ complex in Sarasota, Fla.