By: HOWIE RUMBERG
NEW YORK (AP) Chris Archer threw a two-hitter for his second shutout in three starts, out-pitching Ivan Nova and leading the Tampa Bay Rays to a 1-0 victory over the New York Yankees on Saturday.
Kelly Johnson had an RBI single off Nova (4-4) in the sixth to help the AL East-leading Rays improve to 24-5 since June 23, when they were in last place.
Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said before the game Archer (6-3) embraces the big moments, and he sure did once again t Yankee Stadium.
The 24-year-old rookie with a Captain America lunchbox in his locker never threw more than 14 pitches in an inning and needed just 97 overall, 67 for strikes, for his second career complete game.
Archer gave up a single to Lyle Overbay with one out in the fifth and a ground-rule double to Brett Gardner in the sixth for New York’s only hits in its sixth loss in nine games since the All-Star break.
Archer did not walk a batter and struck out six. He got to finish what he started, catching Ichiro Suzuki’s comebacker and tossing to first for the final out.
Acquired from the Chicago Cubs before the 2011 season in a deal for Matt Garza, Archer enjoyed his best month as a major leaguer. He shut out Houston with a five-hitter on July 14 and his ERA for July is 0.73, an AL record for rookies. The Angels’ Bob Lee had an 0.76 ERA in 1964.
Archer outpitched Nova in the Bronx for the second time this season. Last month, Archer won by holding the Yankees to one run over six innings.
Derek Jeter again was absent from the lineup and the Yankees’ newest hope to provide power, Alfonso Soriano, was hitless in three at-bats, leaving him 0 for 8 since returning to New York.
Jeter was eligible to come off the disabled list Saturday but instead played a simulated game at a location that Yankees would not disclose.
A small flock of pigeons planted themselves at shortstop in the top of the fifth and didn’t leave the infield until the eighth. Could they have been looking for Jeter, too?
With the captain out and Alex Rodriguez, on his 38th birthday, rehabbing his quadriceps strain at the Yankees minor league complex in Tampa, Fla., alongside other injured stars, including Curtis Granderson, the Yankees’ bats were again dormant.
The Yankees have not homered in nine straight games, their longest streak since going 10 in a row in 1984.
Nova matched Archer with a mixture of fastballs that reached 96 mph and a biting curveball that had the Rays swinging at dirt.
He struck out the side in the fourth after Wil Myers led off with a double and James Loney followed with a walk.
Nova finished off the fifth with strikeouts of out Desmond Jennings and Longoria. Longoria chased a breaking pitch down and away and smacked the barrel of his bat in frustration.
The walks finally hurt Nova in the sixth. His free pass to Matt Joyce with two outs put runners on first and second and extended the inning to allow Kelly Johnson a chance to bat.
Johnson then got enough of a 95 mph fastball to bloop it out into center field to drive in Ben Zobrist for a 1-0 lead. Zobrist had reached on a fielder’s choice and stole second base.
NOTES: Yankees DH Travis Hafner was out of the lineup because of a sore shoulder. He was scheduled to have an MRI … Tampa Bay DH Luke Scott also was not in the starting lineup. He had soreness in the shoulder/upper back area. … Rodriguez did light running in the outfield, played catch, hit off a tee in the indoor cage and took 17 grounders hit directly at him on the grass in front of the dirt at third. Six fans, one with a poster board sign saying “Happy Birthday Alex” were there when he left. … The Yankees will honor 2009 World Series MVP Hideki Matsui before Sunday’s game. He will sign a minor league contract with New York and then officially retire as a member of the Yankees. . Maddon became a grandfather for the fourth time. Giuseppe Ennio Maddon was born Friday night.