KANSAS CITY -- Two starts into his Major League career, Chris Archer has 14 strikeouts and a pair of losses.
Similar to his first outing against Washington, Archer's start on Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium saw him get into some early trouble before settling down after a turn through the lineup.
Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, it ended in another loss, 8-2, to the Royals.
Archer went 5 2/3 innings, allowing four runs -- three earned -- on four hits and one walk. He struck out seven. The righty was spotted an early two-run lead, but he labored in a four-run third.
Still, manager Joe Maddon was pleased with Archer's performance.
"I think [Archer] pitched really well. He threw the ball great tonight," Maddon said. "For a young man to get that deep into the game, one walk and [seven strikeouts], that's pretty good. Based on some of the issues he's had in the past, that's a big growth moment for him. They got us in that [third] inning."
The Rays scored in each of the first two innings, something they weren't able to do in nine innings on Monday against Luke Hochevar. In the first, Carlos Pena scored on a Hideki Matsui fly ball and error on Royals catcher Brayan Pena. Brooks Conrad belted a home run off Royals starter Bruce Chen in the second to make it 2-0.
But the Royals struck in the bottom of the third, just as they had a night earlier against Alex Cobb.
Jarrod Dyson singled to lead off the inning, and Alcides Escobar followed with a line drive off the top of the wall in center field. Dyson motored around the bases before being stopped a third of the way down the third-base line, but Sean Rodriguez's relay throw sailed past Jose Lobaton, allowing Dyson to score and Escobar to move to third.
"[It got away] a little bit. I was trying to keep it low," Rodriguez said. "I figured Dyson was trying to score. I was trying to make sure he didn't. My thought's not to pick him up and see if he's going or not, I just turn around and throw."
Alex Gordon followed with a grounder to Rodriguez at short, which he bobbled for an error, scoring Escobar and tying the game.
"I took a step to my right to try and tried to pick it," Rodriguez said. "It was hit too hard for me to be able to do anything else."
Yuniesky Betancourt then unloaded a two-run home run over the Royals' bullpen in left, and just like that, Kansas City grabbed a 4-2 lead.
Archer settled down, not yielding another hit after the Betancourt home run.
"Overall, I think I did pretty well," Archer said. "I made some mistake pitches in that one inning. The guys were playing so hard out there, making diving catches and great plays behind me. ... I did my best to keep the team in the game, and we continued to play hard. Tonight, the ball just didn't bounce offensively and defensively, as well."
"Archer was tough, man," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "That's the first time we've seen him. Good downhill action on his fastball, tremendous curveball. It was a real hard, sharp breaking ball that almost looked like a fastball, then the bottom would fall out of it. Pretty good changeup, too, so he was pretty impressive."
The Royals weren't finished, striking for another four-run inning in the eighth against Rays reliever Brandon Gomes. Jeff Francoeur delivered the big blow -- a three-run home run to make it 8-2.
Offensively, the Rays couldn't get anything going after the two runs off Chen. The veteran lefty picked up his seventh win of the season, going seven innings and allowing just two runs on five hits.
"Chen was really good on us. You've got to give the other guy credit sometimes. He's that kind of left-hander that can bother us. He bothers a lot of teams, but he bothered us today. He pitched well. We kept it close. ... We hit some balls well, too, without any kind of fortune," Maddon said. "They beat us fair and square again."
The Rays' first run-scoring play was action-packed, as Pena tagged from third on Matsui's fly ball to center. Dyson's throw easily beat Carlos Pena to the plate, but Brayan Pena dropped the ball on the transfer before Carlos Pena barreled into him. Brayan Pena was charged with an error.
Conrad's second-inning homer was his first of the season, and he continues to swing a hot bat. In five games since joining the Rays, Conrad is 5-for-13 with a pair of doubles, a home run and six RBIs.
"He's done a nice job. He plays hard. He's involved, he's eager," Maddon said of Conrad. "I can't imagine him not being that on any given day. I really enjoy having him around here. He's done a great job for us."
So after sweeping a doubleheader in Philadelphia, the Rays have dropped two straight in Kansas City. In typical baseball fashion, Maddon was looking ahead to Wednesday afternoon's series finale.
"We'd like to get a good [start] out of Matt [Moore]," Maddon said. "We were in the same position a couple of days ago. We lost two tough games in Washington and lost a tough game against the Phillies, and then we win two games on Sunday. So that's the kind of way this thing rolls sometimes. You can't get too excited or too depressed. ... Things could change very rapidly."
The Rays are hoping that's exactly what happens.
Vinnie Duber is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.