KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Alex Archer did everything he could to keep the Tampa Bay Rays in the game Tuesday night.
He's done everything he could to stick around the big leagues, too.
Archer pitched well into the sixth inning against the Kansas City Royals, but a two-run homer by Yuniesky Betancourt cost him the decision, and a meltdown by the Tampa Bay bullpen resulted in a lopsided 8-2 loss that wasn't nearly as ugly as the final score.
"I did my best to keep us in the game. The ball just didn't bounce our way on offense," Archer said. "Overall, I think I did play well. I made some mistake pitches, hung a slider. It happens."
The 23-year-old Archer is just the latest product of the starting pitcher factory of Tampa Bay. He was recalled last week to start in place of the injured Jeremy Hellickson, and went toe-to-toe against Washington's Stephen Strasburg in his major league debut.
He wound up allowing four runs - three earned - four hits and a walk against the Royals, but also struck out seven and retired 11 of the final 12 batters he faced.
"It's more about what he proved to himself. We've known for a while what kind of stuff he has," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "He proved he can pitch in the big leagues."
Hellickson threw an extended bullpen session Monday and is scheduled to return against Detroit on Saturday, which means that Archer could be headed back to the minors soon.
"We do have a great pitcher coming off the DL," Archer said, "so what happens, happens."
Bruce Chen (7-6) gave up a run in the first inning and Brooks Conrad's solo shot in the second, but was otherwise stingy on another warm night in Kansas City. The 35-year-old left-hander managed to avoid any serious trouble to win for the seventh time in his last nine decisions.
Betancourt paced the offense with a two-run homer during a four-run third inning, and Jeff Francoeur added a three-run homer during a four-run eighth. Alex Gordon and Billy Butler drove in runs along the way for the Royals, who have trumped Tampa Bay 16-2 so far this series.
The output comes after getting swept by St. Louis over the weekend by a 30-14 margin.
"What the Cardinals did to us those three days is what we're doing to the Rays, just adding on and adding on," Francoeur said. "It's a good time for us to get going."
Chen built on a solid start by Luke Hochevar in the series opener, when he tossed his second career shutout. And after Chen allowed the Rays to coax a couple runs across, he simply shut them down the next five innings, which in turn gave the Kansas City offense time to work.
It finally got to Archer in the third inning, though with plenty of help from Rays shortstop Sean Rodriguez, who committed errors on consecutive plays.
Jarrod Dyson led off with a single, and Alcides Escobar sent a rocket off the wall in left-center, just missing his second homer of the year. He was credited with a double, but went to third as Dyson scampered home when Rodriguez's relay throw to the plate resulted in an error.
Gordon stepped the plate and sent a grounder at Rodriguez, which brought home Escobar with the tying run. Rodriguez couldn't field the ball cleanly, which allowed Gordon to reach first.
It proved to be a costly when Betancourt homered over the bullpen.
Once Archer was out of the game, Kansas City started to pile on.
Gordon doubled leading off the eighth inning, and after Mike Moustakas worked a one-out walk, Butler came through with an RBI single. Francoeur was next to the plate and crushed a pitch from reliever Brandon Gomes over the wall for an exclamation-point home run.
The Royals' once-scuttling offense has scored at least eight runs seven times this season - that includes exactly eight runs each of the past three games.
"The beat us," Maddon said. "They just beat us."
Notes: LHP Everett Teaford will be recalled from Triple-A Omaha to start for Kansas City in the series finale Wednesday. LHP Matt Moore will start for Tampa Bay. ... Maddon said DH Luke Scott (back stiffness) could return Thursday. ... Tampa Bay skipped batting practice in part because of the heat. The game-time temperature was 93 degrees, and the forecast calls for a high of 100 on Wednesday.