TORONTO - Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Aaron Sanchez is making small strides as he gains experience as a big-league starter after spending part of last season in the bullpen.
Tampa Bay starter Chris Archer gave him a shining example of how it's done on Thursday night.
Archer turned in a dominant performance in a 4-2 victory over the Blue Jays, striking out 11 and allowing just two hits over seven shutout innings. Tim Beckham hit a two-run homer as the Rays (6-4) won for the fifth time in six games.
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said Archer made tough off-speed pitches when behind in the count that kept his players off-balance.
"Guys that can do that in the big leagues — they win," Gibbons said. "They're tough. As hard as he throws, it's going to be a tough go when a guy is doing that all night."
Archer (2-1) has held the opposition to three earned runs or less in 15 consecutive road starts going back to last season. He issued two walks, hit two batters and trimmed his earned-run average to 1.37.
Sanchez (0-2) was uneven at times over 5 1/3 innings in his second big-league start. The 22-year-old excelled during his run in the bullpen last season but admitted he was "over-amped" for his big-league starting debut last week in Baltimore, when he lasted only 3 1/3 innings.
His fastball was working and his curve ball looked sharp, but he never seemed to find a groove.
"I definitely saw progress," Gibbons said. "He's a good one, he competes. He struggled in his first outing but I thought he was much better tonight and he's only going to get better."
Sanchez walked three batters, gave up five hits, three earned runs and had four strikeouts.
"I was just more aggressive," he said. "I stayed in the zone a lot more. Obviously my velocity was where I wanted it to be. It was just unfortunate (we lost)."
Toronto shortstop Jose Reyes left the game after his first at-bat due to soreness in his left side. He'll be re-evaluated Friday and will likely take the rest of the week off.
The Rays scratched out a run in the third inning and added another in the fifth after doubles by Kevin Kiermaier and David DeJesus.
Evan Longoria led off the sixth with a double to move into sole possession of top spot on the Rays' all-time doubles list with 230, one more than Ben Zobrist. Aaron Loup relieved Sanchez and promptly gave up the two-run shot.
Archer hit Edwin Encarnacion with a pitch in the seventh and issued a one-out walk to Toronto native Russell Martin before fanning Dalton Pompey of Mississauga, Ont., and Kevin Pillar.
Right-hander Steve Geltz relieved Archer in the eighth inning and loaded the bases without recording an out. Devon Travis reached on a single, Ryan Goins walked and Josh Donaldson appeared to be grazed on the hand by a pitch.
The Rays challenged the Donaldson call but it was confirmed after a review. Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash stormed out of the dugout to voice his displeasure and was ejected.
Tension was already higher than normal after Toronto reliever Marco Estrada hit Longoria with a pitch in the left hip in the top of the inning, knocking the slugger out of the game.
"I think there was some intent there," Cash said. "You know, Arch, he pitches in to get outs and I know a couple of balls rode up and in. I do think there was intent."
Reliever Kevin Jepsen came on and did well to limit the damage to one run. He got sluggers Jose Bautista and Encarnacion to fly out, the latter going deep enough to bring Travis home from third.
Pinch-hitter Dioner Navarro grounded out meekly to end the inning. Closer Brad Boxberger gave up a run in the ninth inning before picking up his fourth save.
Notes: Longoria will be re-evaluated Friday. "It should make for an interesting rest of the year against these guys," he said of the late drama. ... Announced attendance was 14,433 and the game took three hours to play. ... The Blue Jays will continue their 10-game homestand at Rogers Centre with a three-game series against the Atlanta Braves beginning Friday night. Toronto's Drew Hutchison (1-0) is scheduled to start the opener against fellow right-hander Julio Teheran (2-0). ... Goins was called up from triple-A Buffalo before the game and reliever Todd Redmond was designated for assignment.
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