Chris Archer admits it. He pays attention to the other side when he's in the middle of a pitchers' duel.
The Rays' No. 3 prospect saw one heck of a show Sunday.
Archer (3-4) faced off against top Yankees prospect Manny Banuelos, and the pair produced very similar pitching lines in Durham's 3-1 victory over Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in a Mother's Day matinee.
The Bulls right-hander allowed only one unearned run on three hits and four walks and struck out a season-high nine over six innings. The Yankees lefty also lasted six frames, allowing one unearned run on five hits without a walk while striking out a season-high seven.
"I'm always watching when the other team's got a good pitcher out, but especially so today [with Banuelos]," Archer said. "I'd never seen him before, but I heard great things and he's obviously a great pitcher. He pitched really well too today. It's easy to see why he's very successful."
Don't read him wrong, though. When Archer's not in the dugout watching his fellow gunslinger, he's out on the mound focusing on the task ahead of him.
"Every game I try to pitch to my capability, whenever I'm out there," he said. "If it's Manny Banuelos or anyone else, I've got my own job to do and that's what I'm working on. I'm trying to give my team the best chance it can have to win, and thankfully that worked out today."
Archer, who is ranked as MLB.com's No. 70 prospect overall, was at his best Sunday in stressful situations. He held Yankees hitters to a 1-for-7, four-strikeout performance with runners in scoring position.
The North Carolina native's only allowed run actually came on a punchout. After Archer got Brandon Laird swinging, Bulls catcher Craig Albernaz committed a throwing error attempting to catch Steve Pearce stealing second base, allowing Ronnier Mustelier to score from third.
Archer encountered trouble again in the sixth after a pair of walks to Pearce and Jack Cust put two men on with just one out. But the 23-year-old righty forced Mustelier and Laird to fly out and ground out respectively to end the frame and his outing.
"I thought my fastball-slider combination was good tonight, especially early," he said. "They're a good-hitting team, a veteran team that I knew I'd have to be prepared for. Luckily, I was able to establish my fastball for strikes early, and that made them respect it a little bit. The guys behind me were great too, so it helped us get the right outcome."
Archer, who is under the guise of his third Major League organization but started the year at Triple-A for the first time in 2012, has now allowed only one earned run in his last two outings. His ERA has dropped from 6.30 to 4.71 over that span, although the stat is inflated by a nine-run performance over 2 2/3 innings on April 13.
Although Sunday's start undoubtedly ranks highly among his best outings in a Durham uniform, Archer wouldn't go as far as to give it any numerical value.
"I definitely think today was a progression again," he said. "My last start was a step in the right direction, and I'd say this was another step. I wouldn't say it was in the top three or four of my starts this year because that's not how I look at things. All I'm trying to do is improve each time I pitch."
Yankees relievers Chase Whitley (4-2) and Adam Miller allowed a run apiece in the seventh and eighth respectively.
Bulls center fielder Kyle Hudson went 2-for-4 with a walk, stolen base and two runs scored.