NEW YORK — Chris Archer is already over 200 strikeouts this season and is getting close to 200 innings.
Yet whether he likes it or not, he’s got another number that’s drawing even more attention — 18 losses.
Archer pitched well until Jacoby Ellsbury and Gary Sanchez tagged him for back-to-back home runs in the sixth inning Saturday that doomed the Tampa Bay Rays to a 5-1 loss to the New York Yankees.
An All-Star last year, Archer (8-18) tied the Tampa Bay record for losses in a season set by Tanyon Sturtze in 2002.
“Baseball’s a funny game. I threw a hundred pitches and there were definitely way more than three pitches that I didn’t execute, but those three pitches were the ones that they capitalized on,” he said.
Archer leads the majors in the losses this season — James Shields, who has lost 17 with the Padres and White Sox, pitched Saturday night.
Archer fanned six and tops the AL with 217 strikeouts. Nolan Ryan is the only AL pitcher to ever lead the league in losses and strikeouts, doing it in 1976 with the Angels.
“Ever since I started playing baseball professionally, I never evaluated myself based off win-loss,” he said.
Archer’s unsightly record comes despite a 4.05 ERA. He’s pitched extremely well at home and struggled on the road.
Archer has thrown 182 1/3 innings this season. Before the game, Rays manager Kevin Cash said he would keep Archer in the rotation if he neared 20 losses.
That’s how Archer wants it.
“I would like to continue to throw the ball well and get as deep as I can into the game and whatever happens after that happens, as far as statistically,” Archer said.
Sanchez homered and almost hit another while Tampa Bay was trying to intentionally walk him, leading Masahiro Tanaka and the hard-charging Yankees to their season-best seventh straight win.
The Yankees closed within three games of AL East-leading Boston, their closest to the lead since mid-April, and are one game back for the second wild-card spot.
Tanaka (13-4) struck out 10 and took a shutout into the eighth inning.
It was scoreless in the sixth when Brett Gardner led off with a single, Ellsbury homered and Sanchez followed with a long drive.
In the eighth, after Ellsbury’s double put runners on second and third with no outs, the Rays seemed set to walk Sanchez. Catcher Bobby Wilson moved wide as reliever Enny Romero lobbed in his first pitch at 52 mph, but the ball drifted close to the plate and Sanchez socked it to the warning track for a sacrifice fly.
From the dugout, Cash seemed to say, “What happened?”
“As far as the eighth inning is concerned, I’m not really going to talk about it other than to say it’s embarrassing,” Cash said postgame. “That’s embarrassing, but we’re not going to talk about it any farther than that.”
Sanchez connected for the second straight day, giving the 23-year-old rookie 13 home runs in 125 at-bats this season.
Tanaka won his sixth straight decision, giving up five hits and walking none. He left in the eighth after Bobby Wilson homered with one out and Logan Forsythe was hit by a pitch.
Ellsbury tagged a familiar target when he lined his eighth home run, a shot into the right-center field seats. Ellsbury is 19 for 34 (.559) with two homers against Archer, the most hits by anyone off the right-hander.
Rays SS Nick Franklin was hit in the foot by a pitch from Adam Warren in the eighth. Franklin got looked at by the trainer and stayed in the game.
“I think he’s OK. He had the foot pad, shin pad all over him, but the ball found a part on the leather,” Cash said.
Rays: Brad Miller was at 1B, a day after he was the DH while recuperating from being hit by a pitch in the right elbow. … RHP Chase Whitley is likely to make his Rays debut Sunday, pitching in relief. He started for the Yankees last year, had Tommy John surgery in May and was acquired Tampa Bay in November.
Rays: RHP Matt Andriese (6-7, 4.58) is 0-7 with a 6.11 ERA in his last 15 games, eight of them starts. The last Tampa Bay pitcher to lose eight straight decisions was Dan Wheeler in 2007-08.
Yankees: RHP Luis Cessa (4-0, 4.07) makes his fifth start in the majors. The Yankees have won all four games he’s started.