ARLINGTON, Texas -- The feel-good story of Texas right-hander Austin Bibens-Dirkx takes another step Wednesday when the journeyman makes his first major league start against the Tampa Bay Rays in the rubber match of a three-game series.
And while Bibens-Dirkx (0-0, 3.97 ERA) has had his work cut out for him throughout his pro career, the fact that he will face off against Tampa Bay ace Chris Archer (4-3, 3.61) adds to the pressure.
Despite what appears to be a one-sided pitching matchup, the 32-year old Rangers rookie is eager to take the ball.
"I'm pretty excited about it," said Bibens-Dirkx, who has pitched in four games for the Rangers since making his major league debut May 17. "It's something I've worked for 11-plus years, and hopefully I can go out there and continue to make pitches. I'm just trying to settle the emotions a little bit as best I can."
The first start adds to a career in which Bibens-Dirkx has pitched in the Toronto, Washington, Colorado, Chicago Cubs and Seattle organizations as well as stops in the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and the independent Atlantic League.
Bibens-Dirkx got the word Tuesday that he was going to make the start.
"Knowing (in advance) I'm getting the start … I'll be able to relax a little bit and take things a little bit differently, but I'll definitely keep an eye on the hitters and I'll be in the dugout and I'll focus and hopefully see something most people might not," said Bibens-Dirkx, who has yet to oppose Tampa Bay.
What he will face Wednesday is one of the most consistent pitchers in the majors in Archer. The lanky right-hander, who is 1-2 with a 5.34 career ERA in five starts against the Rangers, comes into the game on a roll. He struck out 11 in his last start, Friday at Minnesota, and picked up his fourth win with 7 2/3 innings of two-run ball.
Archer set a club record for strikeouts in May with 51 and can add to that against the Rangers. He needs four strikeouts Wednesday to break the club record for any month, a mark set by David Price in June 2014.
One thing that is likely is Archer will pitch deep enough in the game to have a chance to pile up strikeouts. He already has made five starts of at least seven innings this season and has thrown at least 100 pitches in 20 straight starts dating back to 2016.
"I take pride having that ball in my hand as long as I possibly can," Archer said. "You mentioned the work I was doing out there. I don't do it for nothing. I take my job very seriously. I appreciate that they trust in me and that I've shown them enough to this point that I can have that ball deep into the game."
The Rays will have two off days in the next week and should be able to give Archer some extra time between starts.
"I hope that they lean on me (Wednesday) definitely equally if not more than they have in the past," Archer said. "If I get extended, 120 or 130 pitches, I've got two days extra to heal. I'm conditioned for it. And if the game dictates that I need to do it, I'm ready and willing."