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History beckons for Rays pitcher Archer in Monday start against Yankees

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BALTIMORE - The last time Chris Archer performed at Yankee Stadium, he pitched the finest game of his life.

In his return Monday night, the Tampa Bay Rays right-hander has a chance to put his name alongside that of Hall of Famer Walter Johnson.

Archer is only the second pitcher in the last 30 years to win his first four starts against the Yankees, joining Ervin Santana in 2005-06. The last pitcher to go 5-0 in his first five games against New York is Johnson, who did it with the Washington Senators in 1907-08.

"Baseball history is super interesting. It's cool to be part of that history," Archer said Sunday before the Rays wrapped up a four-game series against the Baltimore Orioles.

History is nice, but that won't be his motivation to win.

"When I step out there on the mound, it's definitely not on my mind," Archer said. "I go out with the same mentality every game."

The 25-year-old Archer owns a career record of 14-15, but against the Yankees he's looked like an All-Star. He's 4-0 with a 1.26 ERA over 28 2-3 innings, and on July 27, 2013, he tossed a two-hit shutout that provided him with a memory to last a lifetime.

"I threw the best game I ever threw in my life," Archer recalled. "Since that point, I know what I'm capable of and I'm striving to do that every night out. That's the standard for me."

Archer has patterned his career after teammate David Price, who listened in on the interview. One of the highlights of that gem against the Yankees, Archer said, was that Price was there to witness it.

"I remember the big smile on David Price's face," Archer said. "I think a couple starts before that he threw a complete game in under 100 pitches and I did the same thing. I said, 'I'm just following your lead, man. Just like I have been for a while.'"

The Rays came into Sunday's game needing 19 strikeouts in the final two games of June to break the major league record for Ks in a month (286 by Chicago in August 2002).

Archer (4-5, 3.29 ERA) hoped to be in position to make history in that regard, too.

"Anytime you can have your name or your team's name or your staff's name in the history of baseball that has been around over 100 years," Archer said, "it's special."

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