After one of the more historic months for a rookie pitcher in July, Tampa righty Chris Archer makes his first start in August on Friday when the Rays open a three-game series against the San Francisco Giants at Tropicana Field.
Archer capped an amazing month on Saturday in the Bronx, as he tossed a two- hit shutout to run his overall mark to 6-3, while lowering his ERA to 2.39. The 24-year-old hurler, though, was 4-0 in July with a 0.73 ERA.
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 wasn't the only one thriving in July. The Rays rotation has tossed seven complete games in their past 20 outings. That number is more than any other team has this season, and no other American League team has more than four.
The last team to record seven complete games in a span of 19 games was the 1988 Los Angeles Dodgers, who had eight.
"It's incredible," Archer said. "It just goes to show how important not forcing anything upon anyone is and trusting the decisions made by the people in the organization. At some point in the season, everyone has had doubts about somebody on the starting five. To be where we are, everything worked out as planned."
As a team Tampa went 21-5 in the month. However, they lost on Wednesday and head into this series trailing the Boston Red Sox by a game for the top spot in the American League East.
"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."
San Francisco, meanwhile, is at the other end of the spectrum, but does enter this series on a bit of a roll after taking two of three from the hapless Philadelphia Phillies, including a 2-1 come-from-behind win on Thursday at Citizens Bank Park.
"For both sides that was a crazy ninth inning," said San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy. "We had some great at-bats in our half, then we were able to survive out there in the ninth. It was a little too entertaining for me, to be honest."
Getting the call for the defending champs on Friday will be lefty Madison Bumgarner, who is 10-6 with a 2.76 ERA. Bumgarner did not get a decision on Saturday against Chicago, but was terrific, scattering four hits over eight scoreless innings in his team's 1-0 loss.
"I felt really good today," Bumgarner said after the outing. "Everything seemed to be working pretty good. Buster (Posey) caught a great game."
This series marks the first time the Giants have visited Tampa Bay since they lost two of three to the then-Devil Rays back in 2004. Overall, the teams have split six interleague matchups.