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(The Sports Xchange) - Tampa Bay right-hander Chris Archer recorded the third shutout of his career as the Rays salvaged a series split with a 1-0 victory over the Houston Astros on Thursday.
Archer (11-9) allowed just one hit and issued one walk while recording 11 strikeouts, and needed only 98 pitches to stifle the Astros (66-56), who required walk-off, extra-inning wins to claim the middle two games of the four-game set.
Behind brilliant starting pitching, the Rays (60-61) limited Houston to just eight total runs during the series and will feel a little aggrieved to have not earned more than just a split.
"I thought about the fact that our bullpen needed to breathe a little bit and it was either get 130 pitches and go six or seven (innings), or go eight or nine and give everybody a complete blow," Archer said.
"So yeah, I thought about it. I didn't let it really affect how I was pitching. I pitched normal with the same mentality but I knew that was going to be important."
Rays left fielder Desmond Jennings knocked in the lone run of the game with his two-out single in the fourth inning, scoring second baseman Logan Forsythe.
Archer began his outing with a four-pitch walk of Astros second baseman Jose Altuve, who was subsequently erased as the third out trying to advance on a pitch in the dirt.
The starter struck out Marwin Gonzalez and Carlos Correa in that frame, a foreboding sign of things to come.
"I can't say that was the best but that's got to be right up there at the top simply because it's kind of like an ace knowing what we were faced up against with our bullpen being stretched out the last two nights," Rays manager Kevin Cash said.
"He kind of took the game on his shoulders and really delivered. He was incredibly sharp."
Archer set the Astros down in order in the second, third and fourth innings. Right fielder Colby Rasmus silenced any murmurs of a potential no-hit bid with a leadoff single in the fifth, but Archer responded by retiring the next three batters.
By the close of the seventh inning, he was riding a streak of nine consecutive batters retired with just 78 pitches on his ledger, including only 28 balls.
"He's the story of the game," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "He was in complete control. He's the real deal. He's got every pitch and he had it tonight."
Astros right-hander Collin McHugh (13-7) proved up to the challenge and while he did not dominate to the extent that Archer did, he repeatedly responded when trouble arose.
McHugh allowed only five hits and two walks while striking out five over seven innings. On most nights, that effort would have sufficed.
"Chris did well today. There's no getting around that," McHugh said. "He threw the ball as well as you could throw it. It was a tough draw for sure."
Compiled by John O'Brien