Early in the season, Chris Archer wasn't himself. But since top Rays pitching prospect Matt Moore was promoted, the right-hander has shown why he is next in line in that regard.
The Rays' No. 4 prospect allowed one hit and fanned four over seven scoreless innings as Double-A Montgomery routed Birmingham, 7-1.
Archer surrendered just a first-inning single to Brandon Short. The former fifth-rounder walked five and faced five over the minimum, throwing 51 of his 94 pitches for strikes.
"I had all three pitches working," Archer said. "I was throwing my change and slider early for strikes and that made them respect it for the later innings. I could work off the plate a little and make them put them in play.
"My defense helped me out a lot with some double-play balls and diving grabs. A combo of me using my secondary pitches and my defense making some great plays was what worked tonight."
After winning just one game and posting a 5.85 ERA through the season's first two months, Archer (8-6) has come on strong since. The 22-year-old North Carolina native has won seven games and lowered his ERA to 4.21 since the start of June. Archer, who came to the Rays in the Jan. 8 deal that sent Matt Garza to the Cubs, ranks fourth in the Southern League with 115 strikeouts.
"I think early in the season I was trying to do too much," the 6-foot-3 right-hander said. "I was trying to be something that I wasn't. I wasn't being Chris Archer, I was trying to get guys out by myself and I wasn't letting the defense make plays behind me. That's not the way game works, you have to use the eight guys behind you, and you have to lean on your teammates to help you out."
Since Moore was promoted to Triple-A Durham on July 18, Archer has stepped up his game, winning four of his six starts while posting a 2.29 ERA for Montgomery.
"The whole season I've been trying to do the same thing and that's help my team win ballgames," Archer said. "Losing Matt was a big loss to our team, but it's good for him. Whether Matt's here or not, we're trying to win and I'm trying to keep my team in the ballgames as long as possible."
Walks remain an issue for Archer, having issued 75 over 130 1/3 innings this season. Despite walking five Wednesday, he felt it was still one of his better starts.
"A couple of guys said that to me in the clubhouse and I didn't really think about it, because I did have a few walks. That's one of the biggest things I've been working on," Archer said. "I think all and all you look at the stuff and look at the results and you say that's one of my better starts."
Isaiss Velasquez hit a bases-loaded triple and Greg Sexton was 3-for-5 with two runs scored. John Shelby doubled twice and drove in a run for the Biscuits.
Hector Santiago (5-5) took the loss for the Barons after allowing two runs -- one earned -- on eight hits while fanning eight over seven innings.