ST. PETERSBURG — Chris Archer’s return to the Rays on Sunday afternoon lasted only two innings. Left hip tightness ended his outing prematurely on a day the Rays also lost the services of Nelson Cruz and Ji-Man Choi.
Not surprisingly, given their repeated display of resiliency, the Rays overcame those hurdles by defeating the White Sox, 9-0. It was the 12th time in 16 games the Rays, who got three RBIs from Austin Meadows and Francisco Mejia, scored at least eight runs.
After losing in 11 innings Friday night, the Rays rebounded to take the series from the American League Central leaders. Sunday’s win also extended their lead in the AL East to 4.5 games over the Yankees, whose scheduled game in the Bronx against the Twins was washed out thanks to Tropical Storm Henri.
Archer, who did not seem overly concerned about the injury, struck out four of the first five batters he faced, allowed one hit and walked one in his two innings. He was bothered by hip soreness during his rehab stint at Triple-A Durham.
“He said it was the same hip, but maybe little bit different spot,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash. “We will have doctors look at him and see how he feels tomorrow with a day off.”
Cruz was placed on COVID-19 IL prior to the game and Choi left after one inning due to left hamstring tightness.
“He woke up not feeling good and opted to keep him away,” said Cash, when asked about Cruz.
As for Choi, Cash said, “He said he felt (the hamstring) when he hit the double. It tightened up when he was on base and came around to score (in the first inning).”
Choi, who doubled in the first with one out, was replaced at first base by Yandy Diaz, who singled twice, walked and scored a pair of runs.
Reliever Chris Mazza, who was fishing in Fort Myers on Sunday morning, was summoned to the Trop to fill the void on the active roster created by Cruz’s absence. The right-hander, who arrived at the dome in the second inning, came on in the fifth and pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings.
The Rays got all they needed when Meadows singled home Choi to take a 1-0 lead in the first. The three RBIs gives Meadows 88 on the season.
“That set the tone,” said Cash. “He’s a guy we really like at he plate when guys are in scoring position.”
The Rays took a 3-0 lead with two runs in the third and broke it open in the sixth on Francisco Mejia’s bases-clearing double to make it 6-0.
Wander Franco’s third-inning RBI double extended his streak of reaching base safely to 24 games, equaling the club rookie mark set by Rocco Baldelli in 2003. Franco, who doubled twice with drives off the wall, has hit safely in 11 of 12, a stretch in which he is batting .340.
The Rays hit the road for five games starting with the first of two in Philadelphia on Tuesday night.
Tom Layberger is also a contributing writer for the Tampa Free Press and forbes.com