NEW YORK - After the requisite leaping chest bumps by the starting pitchers near the mound, Chris Archer and David Price wrapped their arms around each other.
“I’m just following your lead,” Archer said.
And Price said … nothing.
“He was just like (silent) with a big smile on his face,” Archer said.
There were plenty of smiles and hugs and hearty handshakes Saturday after Archer pitched the first-place Rays past the Yankees 1-0 with his second complete-game shutout in three starts.
Archer grew up visualizing himself pitching against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium, but he said he never saw himself beating them 1-0 on a two-hitter until the eighth inning Saturday. Actually, no one has seen a Rays pitcher throw a complete-game shutout against the Yankees anywhere, not in the Bronx and not in St. Petersburg.
Archer was the first.
“Stupendously amazing, that’s how it feels,” Archer said.
The Rays, winners of nine of their past 10 games, have tossed six complete games this month with three coming in the past five games.
“That’s highly unusual,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
Like Price on Wednesday in Boston, Archer needed 97 pitches, making his gem the fourth complete game by a Rays pitcher this season in fewer than 100 pitches. Tampa Bay pitchers had done that five times between 1998 and 2012.
“We knew from the get-go we had a good pitching staff,” catcher Jose Molina said. “It was just a matter of feeling comfort and getting that rhythm, and I think we are in that rhythm.”
Archer certainly has found his rhythm, having gone from a pitcher who had trouble getting through five innings when he first joined the staff in June to someone Maddon trusts with a one-run lead in the Bronx in the middle of a playoff chase.
“That’s how it happens,” Maddon said. “Sometimes the light bulb just goes on.”
Archer’s growth spurt coincides with Price’s return from the disabled list. He takes mental notes as he watches the 2012 Cy Young Award winner pitch. Archer said last week that the biggest lesson he’s learned from Price is how to pitch aggressively and get hitters out on as few pitches as possible.
There was also a meeting Wednesday at Fenway Park with Curt Schilling, and the former Red Sox pitcher shared what he learned during his career.
“He was like have a purpose with every pitch, try to get a result on every pitch, and I found myself doing that (Saturday),” Archer said. “So three, four pitches I was able to get most of the guys out because I was trying to throw everything around the plate with the intention of getting a result.”
Archer retired the first 10 Yankees he faced and didn’t allow a hit until Lyle Overbay’s single with one out in the sixth inning.
Kelly Johnson gave Archer the only run he needed with an RBI single in the sixth inning that scored Ben Zobrist.
Maddon had Joel Peralta warming up in the eighth inning and Fernando Rodney in the ninth, but Archer said he knew it was his game.
“I peeked down there. I saw them,” Archer said. “I didn’t care, because going into that (ninth) inning I felt super confident.”
Shutting out the Astros in the last game before the All-Star break helped Archer as he pitched the eighth and ninth innings Saturday. So did the fact Maddon let him go back out for the seventh during his previous start in Toronto after Archer pitched himself out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth.
Both were growth moments for the rookie.
“He was this waiting to happen,” Maddon said, adding that Archer is living up to the scouting reports that predicted success on the major-league level.
When asked about Price’s impact on his recent success, Archer mentioned the identical pitch counts. But it actually goes a lot farther back than Price’s return this month from the disabled list.
The two met before the 2008 season when both were working out at Vanderbilt. Price, who had been the first overall pick in the previous draft, stayed in touch with Archer, texting him often as Archer pitched in the Indians, Cubs and Rays organizations.
“He doesn’t get any benefit or gain from that, but I do, like an incredible amount,” Archer said. “So I’ve known him since I was 18, and being on this team and watching him, just makes me respect him even more.”