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At age 26, Rays’ Chris Archer has become a star pitcher

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When he was 26, it was a very good year.

For David Price, the old Tampa Bay Rays’ pitcher, it was the finest of times. He won 20 that year. He won the Cy Young in 2012. As far as pitching is concerned, he put a claim in on the future.

So far, Chris Archer has been better.

He is 26 now, and Archer is putting in a claim of his own. He has been dominant, especially in his last three starts, and the rest of baseball is starting to notice. Granted, Archer still has a long way to go to equal what Price did back then. But halfway through June, he’s been better.

Archer is 7-4. On this date, Price was 7-3.

Archer has a 1.84 era. Price was at 3.33.

Archer has 108 strikeouts. Price was at 70.

Opponents are hitting .196 against Archer. They were hitting .236 against Price.

In other words, Archer has grown up. He has arrived. Around him, pitchers have been injured, and the regulars are all new. Only Archer has been a rock.

“I think looking at a lot of people’s careers, around this age is when they start to make that turn,” Archer said Friday. “Your talent and your experience are starting to meet. Felix (Hernandez), (Max) Scherzer). All those guys were 25-27 when they made that leap.”

The key, Archer said, is maturity. Mentally, he has grown into his abilities.

“That’s all it is,” Archer said. “The physical has always been close to the same. This game is 100 percent mental. 100 percent. We’re all talented, gifted, we’re world-class athletes. There are only 750 of us here.

“All of us have physical tools to do it. It’s a matter of bridging the physical and mental. It’s just like when you first started writing — you weren’t as confident and convicted. Now, however many years later, you’re a much better writer.”

Still, dealing adverbs isn’t quite as difficult as sliders. Already, there are those talking about Archer in the all-star game. There have even been articles suggesting he’s the early leader for the Cy Young.

“He’s been outstanding,” said manager Kevin Cash. “You talk about all-star pitchers and who should be pitching. We have the luxury of watching him pitch every time he goes out there. I can’t imagine many guys being better.

“I can’t speak to where he was last year, but he’s taken on that leadership role on the field with our staff.”

Archer is the only guy since 1900 to record 10-plus strikeouts (38 total) in three straight games with no walks. At this rate, he would finish with 282 strikeouts, far ahead of the franchise record of 239 by Scott Kazmir.

So far, Archer ranks among the league leaders in strikeouts (2nd, one behind Corey Kluber), era (2nd), wins (tied for second), innings (sixth), starts (tied for first), strikeouts per nine innings (2nd) home runs per nine innings (8th), Whip (2nd), opponent’s average (3rd) and opponents on-base percentage (second), opponent’s slugging percentage (3rd). Opposing hitters have missed on 31 percent of their swings, which is the second most in the American League.

Archer will have a chance to improve all of those stats when he starts Saturday night against the White Sox.

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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