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TB@KC: Archer fans four over seven shutout innings

Tampa Bay and Baltimore will kick off a three-game series Monday night at Camden Yards. The Rays held a 13-6 advantage over the Orioles last season

Chris Archer will start for the Rays after posting quality starts in his previous two outings.

Archer received a no-decision Tuesday night in Kansas City after pitching seven scoreless innings in a 1-0 win over the Royals, a start in which Archer said he had a better performance than he did when he earned the win against the Blue Jays on April 3.

"I was able to conserve some pitches and get into the seventh inning, which is a bar that aces pretty much establish," Archer said. "We're not happy unless we get into the seventh inning.

"…I threw some competitive changeups. My fastball's pretty much where I want it to be and my slider was on point as well."

So what's left for Archer to accomplish on the mound?

"I still wasn't 100 percent efficient with everything [against the Royals]," Archer said. "I didn't throw every pitch where I wanted to. That for me is always going to be the challenge. I get 100 pitches. I want to be 100 percent efficient. I don't mean I want to throw 100 percent strikes, but I want to throw the baseball where I want to every single time."

Archer called the Orioles, "one of those teams that you prepare for and keep an eye on in the offseason to see what transactions they make."

"They've added some depth to their lineup," Archer said. "They've added some speed. So it's something that I'm conscious of. In my last bullpen, I practiced executing pitches against them -- certain combinations against certain guys. We've been working on it all week and had an extra day to do some studying. They are strong, but I feel like we're fully prepared."

Left-hander Wei-Yin Chen will start for the Orioles, who are breaking in a new closer in Tommy Hunter. For the right-hander, the closer role is a new one.

No matter the level of experience, a blown save was bound to come at some point. For the right-hander, his first of the season came Saturday against the Blue Jays. Orioles manager Buck Showalter remains confident in Hunter heading into the start of an American League East series with the Rays.

First, Showalter would like to quibble with the notion of a blown save, something Hunter did not do in his first three chances of the season.

"He didn't blow a save," Showalter said. "He didn't have it. You can't blow something you didn't have."

Fair enough, though the opportunity for a save existed. Baltimore led 1-0 in the top of the ninth with two outs and a 1-2 count to Colby Rasmus.

Hunter, who took over for Jim Johnson this season as the Orioles closer, served up the game-tying home run. The Orioles would eventually win in the 12th inning.

"They're all different. You make a mistake throwing a blanket over them," Showalter said when asked about the reaction he looks for in a closer, especially when a pitcher is new to the role. "There is not a common pattern with them for the most part, but there are certain things. They're all going to have situations like last night.

"You learn from it, but you don't become timid with it. Think about the positive things Tommy brings -- knock on wood. He throws the ball over the plate. He fields the position. He holds runners. Those are big things.

Also big, Hunter didn't let the home run faze him.

"I was pleased that the next hitter he attacked and got out, got us in the dugout," Showalter said. "If he had given us another one we would have lost the game that inning."

Rays: Archer's growth moment

Archer still remembers his relief appearance against the Orioles on Sept. 13, 2012. The right-hander was a rookie and pitched 3 2/3 innings in a game that he ultimately took the loss for in extra innings. But along the way he struck out Matt Wieters with the bases loaded after he'd fallen behind 3-0 to the Orioles slugger. Had he walked Wieters, he would have forced home the winning run.

"No doubt [that game was a growth moment]," Archer said. "Because at that point I was fresh, I was still new. Obviously I still am. But we were in a pennant race, bases loaded, 3-0 to Wieters. And I ended up getting out of it. I definitely grew and I've continued to grow.

"I really don't see a point in time where I'm going to stop growing. That was probably the biggest one at that point, but there have been other moments that have been equally important."

Orioles: Showalter may use Britton as starter if needs arise

Left-hander Zach Britton entered the Majors in 2011 with the idea of becoming a starting pitcher. After initial struggles in that role, he's found success coming out of the bullpen. But that doesn't mean the 26-year-old will spend his career in relief.

"I wouldn't hesitate if there was a need and that served us," Showalter said about the idea of using Britton as a starter in the future.

As a rookie, Britton started strong, but eventually finished 11-11 with a 4.61 ERA in 28 starts. Shoulder injuries cropped up and eventually led to a return to the Minors. After turning in a stellar performance this Spring Training, Britton stuck with the big league club as a second southpaw out of the bullpen. In five games this season, he is 2-0, having yet to allow a run in 8 1/3 innings pitched.

Worth noting

• With seven shutout innings Saturday, Alex Cobb extended his scoreless-innings streak to 15. He has not allowed a run in three of his last four regular-season starts and four of his last six starts including postseason.

• Erik Bedard, 35, was born in Navan, Ontario. By joining the Rays, he becomes the fourth Canadian-born player in Rays history after outfielder Rich Butler, catcher Pete LaForest, and right-hander Jesse Crain.

• Chris Davis bashed an AL-leading 53 home runs last season. Six of those came against the Rays, along with 18 RBIs and a .282 batting average in 71 at-bats.

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