Kevin Cash has no trouble mentioning Chris Archer's name among the best pitchers in the majors. Considering how well the Tampa Bay right-hander has thrown of late, the first-year Rays manager likely won't get much of an argument.
Looking to win a fourth straight decision, Archer tries to help the Rays conclude a successful trip with another strong outing against the Seattle Mariners on Sunday.
Since yielding nine runs and eight walks over 9 1-3 innings while losing his first two starts of May, Archer (6-4, 2.01 ERA) has allowed five with six walks and struck out 47 over 34 1-3 innings to go 3-0 in his last five.
"The way he's pitching right now I would certainly say he would be the ace of any staff," Cash told MLB's official website. "You can take his numbers and probably put them up against anybody in baseball."
Archer, who hasn't allowed more than a run in four straight contests, matched the club record with 15 strikeouts over eight innings of a 6-1 win over the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday. He's the first Ray to fan at least 12 in back-to-back outings.
"He's definitely one of the best pitchers in the game,'' Los Angeles catcher Chris Iannetta said. "He should get a lot more notoriety than he does. Good guy, goes about his business the right way, looks like he has really good work ethic, great demeanor on the mound, doesn't show anybody up, very professional out there.
"It's evident in his ability to execute pitches."
Though Archer is 0-2 and the Rays (30-27) have dropped all four of his starts versus Seattle, he extended his scoreless-inning stretch against the Mariners to 15 1-3 after allowing two hits and striking out 12 over eight of a 3-0 defeat May 27.
Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager are a combined 0 for 23 with seven strikeouts versus Archer. One of Austin Jackson's two hits in nine at-bats against Archer was a home run.
Jackson's tiebreaking homer in the seventh helped the Mariners snap a seven-game skid with Saturday's 2-1 victory. Though Seattle (25-31) has something positive to build on, it hasn't scored more than three runs in 11 consecutive contests and is batting .154 with runners in scoring position over the last 10.
"We're battling," said Jackson, batting .390 in his last 10 contests. "We're going to keep grinding. ... We're going to weather this storm."
Seattle starters have a 1.75 ERA over a five-game stretch that began Tuesday when ex-Rays prospect Mike Montgomery made his major league debut and allowed a run over six innings of a 5-3, 11-inning loss to the New York Yankees. Tampa Bay dealt the left-hander to Seattle on March 31 for Erasmo Ramirez.
"I want to come here and do my part and help this team win as many games as it can," said Montgomery, who is replacing the injured James Paxton in the rotation.
It's uncertain if he'll get to face Evan Longoria, who could miss a second straight contest while dealing with a sore wrist.
"I'll come in and see how it feels," Longoria said. "With (Monday off), it might be smarter to give it (Sunday), too. But we'll see."
Joey Butler is batting .387 in the last eight for the Rays, who fell to 6-3 on a 10-game trip after their four-game winning streak came to an end.