Tampa Bay pitching prospect Chris Archer is motivated to succeed. But as much as he wants to do well for himself, he also wants to make his family and friends proud.
For Archer, the intricate support group has helped shape him as a baseball player and as a person. Right now, he's giving them plenty of reasons to be happy.
MLB.com's No. 70 prospect allowed one run on four hits over six innings to earn his first win in six games as the Triple-A Durham Bulls beat the Syracuse Chiefs, 2-1, to earn a split of Tuesday's doubleheader.
"I think my biggest motivator is myself, but within that, I have had a lot of people help me out in my career," the 23-year-old fifth-round pick from the 2008 Draft said. "I feel like whenever I go out there I make those people proud. The way I do that is to take everything serious and do everything to the max.
"I want to succeed for myself and my team, but also for my support group. What makes me blossom is under the surface; the things people don't see. What makes me grow and what makes me metaphorically beautiful is my roots."
Tampa Bay's No. 3 prospect allowed a run on consecutive one-out singles and Carlos Rivera's RBI groundout in the first inning, but he escaped without any further damage when right fielder Jesus Feliciano threw Mark Teahen out at the plate trying to score from second on Brett Carroll's base hit.
Archer struck out Jeff Howell to strand Jarrett Hoffpauir at third base in the second inning, he set down 12 of the next 13 batters he faced -- including nine in a row -- before turning over a 2-1 lead to the bullpen in the seventh.
"I've learned over the season not to stress about giving up runs," the 6-foot-3 right-hander added. "I know within myself that if I pound the strike zone I will be fine. I don't get upset about singles or hits in general. I knew my catcher [Craig Albernaz] was on the same page as me and that my first inning was solid. I just gave up a couple base hits and that's the game of baseball.
"I felt good in the bullpen and I felt good from the first batter to the last. I felt good the whole game, I pounded the strike zone and my defense backed me up."
Dane De La Rosa replaced Archer in the seventh. He worked around a walk and struck out two batters to record his fourth save of the year and give Archer his first victory since April 8.
Since picking up the win in his season debut at home to Gwinnett, Archer had gone 0-4 with a 7.50 ERA in the next five starts. Among those outings were back-to-back losses on the road in Gwinnett on April 13 when he allowed nine runs over 2 2/3 innings and as a visitor in Charlotte five days later when he yielded four runs over four frames.
"If you go back and look at my second and third start, I was out of character a little bit," said Archer, who was acquired from the Chicago Cubs in an eight-player deal on Jan. 8, 2011. "Throw those numbers out and see how I have progressed and made adjustments since that game in Charlotte, that is how you evaluate yourself.
"At this point of my career, I'm not focused on my ERA. It's about making progression and making adjustments and the numbers definitely reflect that. On the season as a whole, I feel really confident and I'm working hard to maximize my potential."
Since the loss in Charlotte, Archer has felt more consistent. He has not allowed more than two runs in three of his last four starts, he has pitched into the sixth all four times and he has surrendered just one home run. He has also fanned 20 batters while walking 11 in 23 1/3 innings.
"I feel like the past four games have been a progression in the right direction for sure. Mel Allen, the pitching coach, has been simplifying things for me since Spring Training," he explained.
"Like all pitchers, we have been looking at commanding my fastball. Tonight my fastball was there; in, out, up, down, two-seam, four-seam and my slider was complementing my fastball really well coming out of the same slot. I was balanced on the rubber, and when I fell behind, I was able to make quality pitches."
As well as Allen, Archer has a number of other people to thank for his successes on the hill. On Tuesday, his mentor and JV coach Ron Walker was one of the first people to reach out to the North Carolina native with advice.
"My parents are always positive, the Rays coaching staff has helped me become more consistent and Ron has definitely been there for me throughout thick and thin," said Archer, now in his sixth year as a pro.
"Even going back to Rookie ball when I was 0-and-whatever with a 9.00 ERA, he didn't abandon me. He knows me better than anybody. He texted me tonight and said that he knew what I was thinking and that I shouldn't get too comfortable with this win. He told me that I need to build on it in my next start. He said to feel good about it, but to remember what I did well and what I didn't do well. He always wants me to get better."
On Tuesday, Albernaz delivered the biggest hit of the game with a bases-loaded, two-run single with one out in the fifth. Designated hitter Stephen Vogt and shortstop Reid Brignac both scored in the win.
Syracuse starter Mitch Atkins (2-3) allowed two runs on four hits over five innings. He struck out four batters and walked two. No Chiefs batter reached base more than once in the seven-inning contest.
In the first half of the twinbill, Syracuse prevailed, 4-2, behind a complete game by Zach Duke (3-1).