ST. PETERSBURG - Chris Archer got the first two outs in the seventh inning and Joe Maddon was already thinking of the decision he would make in the eighth: leave Archer in if the score was still tied or turn things over to Joel Peralta if the Tampa Bay Rays took the lead.
Turns out, the San Francisco Giants made the decision for Maddon.
The defending World Series champions reached Archer for three quick runs, and they were the difference Friday in the Giants' 4-1 victory in front of 20,144 at Tropicana Field.
"He had two outs and nobody on in the seventh inning and all of a sudden it broke loose," Maddon said.
It was Archer's first loss since June 18, snapping a seven-start streak in which he went 5-0.
It was also the first time the Rays lost back-to-back games since June 26 and 28, when the lost to the Blue Jays and the Tigers.
The Rays caught a break when the Diamondbacks held on to a 7-6 win in Boston. They still trail the first-place Red Sox by one game.
Archer, who was 4-0 with a 0.73 ERA in July, continued to roll even thought the calendar now reads August.
The rookie right-hander allowed one run through six innings, and that came on a home run by Brandon Belt in the fifth inning. Belt's homer ended Archer's streak of 18 consecutive scoreless innings.
"Up until to that point he kind of looked like July," Maddon said.
Meanwhile, the Rays managed only one run against Giants starter Madison Bumgarner, that coming on an RBI single by Ben Zobrist in the second inning that scored Jose Lobaton. It was the second of two hits the Rays had that inning with a runner in scoring position. Ryan Roberts bunt single with Lobaton on second after a leadoff double was the other.
It would also be the Rays' last hit with a runner in scoring position. They finished the night 2-for-10 in that department and are now 4-for-30 during the first three games of this homestand.
"They pitched us well in the right moments," Maddon said. "Overall we need to get back on task with that, and we will. There's an ebb and flow to the season. You get hot at some moments and other times you don't. We'll get it back."
The Rays left the bases loaded in the second and couldn't do anything after Jennings reached on a bunt single and Zobrist drew a walk to start the fifth inning.
Evan Longoria, now 0-for-12 on the homestand, struck out.
Maddon said he told Longoria after the game that he would remain in the third hole in the order. Maddon also said he liked the swing Longoria put on the ball during the seventh inning when he grounded to third base in what became an inning-ending force play.
Wil Myers, whose 12-game hitting streak came to an end with an 0-for-3 night, followed Longoria and flied out to deep center field.
Sean Rodriguez, who left the bases loaded in the second inning when he followed a two-out walk to Myers with a pop-up to second base on the first pitch of the at-bat, lined out to right field for the last out of the fifth inning.
"Maybe we're just doing too much swinging at balls," catcher Jose Lobaton said. "We got to work on that, swing at strikes and put the ball in play. Put the ball in play and something can happen. Right now we're struggling, but we got a pretty good team. I know we can figure it out, come back (tonight) and do better."
It was the second consecutive start for Archer where the Rays scored exactly one run. The last time he got by, throwing a shutout at Yankee Stadium. He wasn't so fortunate Friday.
"Sometimes it's not all about scoring runs, it's about pitching and defense," Archer said, "and I failed to come up with my end in the seventh inning."
Hunter Pence began the two-out rally in the seventh with an infield single on a ball he chopped to third base. Belt followed with a triple to give the Giants the lead.
Brandon Crawford homer to right field for the final runs of the night.
Archer said he didn't feel like he pitched poorly that inning. He felt he was making the correct pitches - they just got hit.
"With two outs in the seventh they started seeing me really well," Archer said.
Lobaton, who hit his first career triple in the ninth inning ("I don't think you're going to see too many of those," he said), said Archer was the victim of some bad fortune on Pence's hit.
"I think we got unlucky that inning, but overall I think he threw really good," Lobaton said.
Maddon said the decision to stay with Archer or go with Peralta rested with the Pence at-bat. Had Archer retired the right fielder, Belt would have led off the eighth. Belt already had two hits off Archer, and that's why Maddon was thinking of using Peralta for the eighth.
On the other hand, Archer had thrown only 91 pitches up to that point. It might have been too early to go to the bullpen if the Rays didn't take the lead in the bottom of the inning.
It took just four pitches, beginning with Pence's infield hit, for the game to get away from Archer.
"Those three guys in the seventh inning with two outs and nobody on scored three points," Maddon said. "I would bet on Archie most of the time right there."
Archer didn't allow three runs in any of his five July starts. In fact, the four runs he allowed Friday matched his total for the entire month of July.
"Longo said it best. 'This game is always going to find a way to humble you,' and the ball was bouncing the right way in July," Archer said. "(Friday) a few balls didn't bounce the right way. So it's good to stay humble, to continue to work. It's all just a reminder. You're facing major league hitters.
"Just because you got a couple of scoreless outings doesn't meant in one-third of an inning they can't score four or five runs off of you."