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Tampa Bay Enters the Playoff Discussion in American League East

Tampa Bay right-hander Chris Archer is quietly having a phenomenal 2014 campaign as evidenced by his 3.16 ERA and 1.29 WHIP, including a 2.59 ERA and 1.17 WHIP at home and a 3.26 ERA and 1.23 WHIP at night. Archer takes the mound in excellent form with a 1.99 ERA in his last seven starts, including a dominating performance against the Tigers in his last outing. “It was my best game so far this season,” said Archer. “I gave up two solo home runs. … That’s a good hitting team. They have a lot of power, and I think any pitcher in this league would be OK with giving up two solo homers against them. So, I’m not going to beat myself up over the ninth inning too much. But there is room to grow. I’m going to continue to execute pitches better.”

While Archer allowed two home runs against Detroit, the 25-year-old did not yield a long ball during the entire month of June. Let’s also note that Archer is 2-0 with a 2.22 ERA and 1.16 WHIP in five career starts against the Blue Jays. Archer’s underlying metrics also support his strong peripheral numbers:

Chris Archer’s Underlying Metrics:

3.74 xFIP & 3.87 SIERA overall
3.33 xFIP & 2.76 FIP at home
3.73 xFIP & 2.65 FIP in June

Archer now faces a depleted Toronto lineup that is without the services of Edwin Encarnacion, Adam Lind and Brett Lawrie. The recent loss of Lind is particularly troubling for the Blue Jays as it leaves them without a natural first baseman on their roster. Toronto is batting just .249 with a .318 on base percentage on the road (4.2 runs per game), .232 with a .275 on base percentage over the last ten days (2.4 runs per game) and .205 with a .286 on base percentage in domes (2.7 runs per game). Tampa Bay and Toronto have also been heading in opposite directions since June 11, over which time the Rays boast the record in the American League East, whereas the Blue Jays have gone 9-17.

“Huge. We want to win series, but I want to take all three,” said Chris Archer. “And it starts with game one. I’m happy that I’m getting the ball, and I’m happy that our team is playing so well defensively and offensively.” Archer’s counterpart, Toronto southpaw Mark Buehrle, arrives in town with an impressive 2.60 ERA and 1.24 WHIP this season, but those numbers are grossly misleading based upon his underlying metrics:

Mark Buehrle’s Underlying Metrics:

4.25 xFIP & 4.47 SIERA overall
4.28 xFIP & 4.61 FIP in June
5.81 xFIP & 4.78 FIP in July

Buehrle’s misleading peripheral statistics are aided by an unsustainable 82% strand rate and a very lucky 6% HR/F rate. The veteran lefty also has to contend with a bad Toronto bullpen that owns a 4.27 ERA and 1.40 WHIP this season, including a 4.47 ERA and 1.35 WHIP on the road, a 4.46 ERA and 1.44 WHIP at night, a 4.19 ERA and 1.51 WHIP versus division opponents and a 7.20 ERA and 2.20 WHIP in domes. In contrast, Tampa Bay’s relief staff owns a decent 3.83 ERA and 1.15 WHIP at home (152/51 K/BB rate; 159.7 IP), a 3.68 ERA and 1.25 WHIP at night and a 3.55 ERA and 1.24 WHIP versus division opponents.

From a technical standpoint, Tampa Bay is 27-8 (+14.9 units) in July over the last two seasons. The Rays are also 9-3 in Archer’s last twelve starts as a home favorite, 11-4 in Archer’s last fifteen starts versus A.L. East opponents and 6-2 in Archer’s last eight home starts versus teams with a winning record, whereas the Blue Jays are 1-5 in Buehrle’s last six starts and 0-4 in Buehrle’s last four starts following a loss. I should also note that Toronto is a money-burning 1-8 in its last nine road games, 1-9 in its last ten games as an underdog and 0-5 in its last five games versus right-handed starters. With Tampa Bay standing at 16-7 (+6.0 units) at home in this series over the last three seasons, take the surging Rays and invest with confidence.

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