Chris Archer doesn't care too much about his overall numbers. He just wants to make progress, and Thursday, he took another step forward.
The Rays' No. 2 prospect allowed two runs over a season-high seven innings, breaking a personal four-game losing streak as the Triple-A Durham Bulls routed the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, 12-2.
Archer (4-8) surrendered just three hits and three walks, striking out five, to earn his first win since May 13.
"It was one of my top two or three starts of the season," Archers said. "I had crisp fastball command and everything else was working off that well. The pitching coach [Neil Allen] and I, the whole season, he's been challenging me to pound the strike zone and get ahead of hitters. I was able to do that tonight.
"We made awesome plays too. That's one thing the scorebook and line doesn't show. Double plays, we ran back on balls and caught them. It was one of those nights when whole team was clicking."
The 23-year-old right-hander was perfect through his first three innings before yielding a leadoff single to Kyle Hudson in the fourth. He surrendered both runs in the sixth, after Hudson led off with a walk and Kevin Frandsen followed with a single to make it first and third with nobody out. Eric Kratz connected on an RBI double two batters later, while Steve Susdorf plated the other run on a groundout.
"I limited my damage pretty well. ... I did give up two runs in the seventh, but it could've been a lot worse," Archer said. "I felt like I handled that situation a lot better."
Despite registering quality starts in three of his past four outings, Archer had dropped all four decisions. In one of those games against Norfolk, he struck out a career-high 12 batters, but lost because the Tides combined on a one-hit shutout.
"I try to not get too overwhelmed with it," Archer said. "What I try to do is keep my team in the ballgame. I understand the game of baseball is funny. Some days I'll go five innings and give up five runs and get a no-decision. Some days I pitch a shutout and get a no-decision. And I'll get wins and losses those fluky ways too. Honestly, if I have some bad 'luck,' I don't get too overwhelmed. Guys are playing hard and that's all that anyone can ask us to do."
Through 14 starts this year, Archer owns a 4.81 ERA with 90 strikeouts and 45 walks in 76 1/3 frames. Free passes have been an issue for Archer at the higher levels of the Minors, but he is working with Allen to correct the problem by emphasizing first-pitch strikes.
"He pitched in the big leagues for a long time and was a power pitcher," Archer said. "It's good to have a coach who was very similar to me and had the same issues as me coming up. I can learn from his experiences and he can teach me from his experiences."
Though Archer struggled in April, posting a 6.75 ERA, he has improved since then. Over his last nine starts, he has put together a 3.93 ERA.
"We're in the developmental league basically," Archer said. "And if you break down that word, for me, I'm trying to develop my mental side of the game. The physical is there. To harness that, I'm trying to develop the mental. I've really made progress with regard to the mental side.
"The first half was good. Could it have been better? Yes. But from where I started in April and where I'm at in mid-June, I feel like I've made a lot of progress and that's what it's all about for me."
Leslie Anderson led the Bulls' offense by going 3-for-5 with a homer and three RBIs, while Reid Brignac also went deep. Every player in the Durham lineup either scored or drove in a run.