Area-code loyalty only goes so far, apparently.
Carlos Rodon smiled Saturday when asked whether he was excited to again share the field with Chris Archer, the Tampa Bay Rays ace from Clayton.
The stakes were bigger, as was the stadium, since the days the two 919 stars who grew up about 30 minutes apart threw offseason bullpen sessions at N.C. State’s Doak Field, where Rodon was a Wolfpack star. Archer, who committed to the Wolfpack out of high school before signing a pro contract in 2006, remains close with Pack coach Elliott Avent and stops by occasionally.
Both are major leaguers now. Rodon, a rookie, learning his way after recently joining the Chicago White Sox rotation a year after being drafted third overall. Archer, established yet still rising, making a push to pitch in July’s All-Star Game in Cincinnati.
Rodon, who led Holly Springs to a state championship and N.C. State to the College World Series, had the weekend series off after earning his second career win Tuesday.
He said he was looking forward to watching Archer.
To a certain extent, anyway.
“It’ll be fun to watch him,” Rodon said, smiling while seated inside the visiting clubhouse at Tropicana Field. “But I’m hoping we can score a few runs, pull out a win, too.”
He got part of his wish. The White Sox scored twice directly off Archer, who delivered his fourth consecutive shutdown performance before exiting with a lead in the eighth inning.
In three starts leading to Saturday, Archer allowed one earned run in 23 innings, but that wasn’t the number that had Rodon and other major league observers buzzing. These were: 38 strikeouts, 0 walks.
Archer struck out five Saturday and didn’t walk a batter until a 3-2 slider to Adam Eaton stayed high to open the eighth. That ended a streak of 107 batters without a walk, and also his day. He left to a standing ovation with a 3-2 lead.
His eighth win, however, will come another day. Three pitches after he exited, Conor Gillaspie hit a two-run homer off reliever Brad Boxberger, giving Chicago a 4-3 lead and leaving Archer with a no-decision in a game the Rays rallied to win, 5-4.
“It’s not easy to do,” Rodon said of Archer’s hot stretch. “He makes it look easy. He’s very special.”
Chris Archer’s past four starts: