ANAHEIM -- Chris Archer wasn't at his best Sunday. Still, the Rays right-hander notched a quality start while allowing just two runs in six innings in a 4-3 loss to the Angels.
The two runs were the most allowed by a Rays starter in the three-game series vs. the Angels. Jacob Faria and Alex Cobb each allowed a home run in their respective outings Friday and Saturday night. They, too, came away with quality starts.
"I'll be honest with you, the three starts here, I think all three of them would tell you they didn't have their best weapons going, their best execution," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "But they found a way to really, really limit damage. And sometimes that's as good as getting a dominant start. They're all going to kind of feed off that together knowing that we weren't feeling our best, but we still limited a good offense."
Despite Sunday's effort by Archer, the Rays were unable to come away with a sweep.
Starting pitching has long been touted as the foundation of the Rays organization. This year the offense has chipped in with something they haven't had in the past, firepower. Thus, if the Rays starters can pitch the rest of the season anywhere near like they pitched over the weekend, the team should be considered a serious playoff contender.
Archer had control problems Sunday and got bit early by a high pitch-count. The right-hander had 45 pitches through two innings. Such an imbalance can lead to an early shower. Instead, Archer showed composure by finding a way to get the job done.
He needed just eight pitches to negotiate the third and 14 to get through the fourth.
"I felt a little sluggish," Archer said. "A little rusty. Not making any excuses. But I just had to get myself going after the second inning. I liked how I threw the ball toward the end of the game, even though some runs scored. I like that better than throwing 45-50 pitches early on."
After walking the first two hitters he faced in the fifth -- including a leadoff walk to former Ray and Angels No. 9 hitter Nick Franklin, Archer nearly escaped by striking out Kole Calhoun and Mike Trout. Needing just one more out, Archer surrendered an RBI single to Albert Pujols that put the Angels up 1-0.
"Two walks to start the fifth inning is not good," Archer said. "Walking the nine-hole never ends up good. They capitalized on that, but fortunately we were able to limit the damage."
Martin Maldonado's sacrifice bunt scored Andrelton Simmons in the seventh to put the Angels up, 2-0. In the past, that deficit might have been the ballgame and Archer would have come away with a loss. Instead, Logan Morrison's two-run homer got Archer off the hook.
Archer "did a nice job of battling through jams," Cash said. "I don't think he had his best command today, obviously by the walks, but he seemed to make a lot of big pitches when he needed to. Similar to Alex Cobb's start the night before. You can't complain too much about one run or two runs over six innings. We'll take that start or that performance every night."
Now the Rays will rely upon Jake Odorizzi and Blake Snell to start the team's first two games in Oakland, and hopefully continue the trend.
Archer told reporters the results by Faria, Cobb and Archer were "encouraging" over the weekend, but ...
"We need to turn it around," Archer said. "Falling behind guys and full counts, and walking people. You're not going to have continued success. Maybe one out of every couple of starts. We had a couple of games in a row where it happened. But in Oakland, we need to continue what we've been doing. Just pounding [the strike zone] and getting ahead."
Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.