ST. PETERSBURG -- If the Astros never set foot again inside Tropicana Field again, it will be too soon.The Rays used a two-run, two-out bloop single by Matt Duffy in the seventh inning and a solo homer in the eighth by Mallex Smith -- his first in 356 at-bats --
ST. PETERSBURG -- If the Astros never set foot again inside Tropicana Field again, it will be too soon.
The Rays used a two-run, two-out bloop single by Matt Duffy in the seventh inning and a solo homer in the eighth by Mallex Smith -- his first in 356 at-bats -- to beat the Astros, 3-2, for the third game in a row Sunday afternoon.
The loss marked Houston's first series defeat since May 28-30 at Yankee Stadium.
"We didn't do enough to win the game or the series," Astros manager AJ Hinch said. "We made some mental errors, we had some big moments that they executed some pitches. One-run games, a couple of losses this series, are tough to swallow. We'll take it to the next city, but this one sucks."
The Astros were 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position on Sunday and 0-for-14 in the series. Houston managed just seven runs in the four-game series -- all on homers, including a pair of solo shots Sunday by Evan Gattis. It was their fewest runs in a four-game series on the road since they scored five at Tropicana Field in 2014.
"It was frustrating for all of us," Astros right fielder Josh Reddick said. "The first few games, we were hitting the ball really well and not getting anything to show for it, and then you watch across the way, and those guys are flailing at everything and it gets barely over the infield and drops in front of our outfielders. It was definitely a frustrating weekend."
Astros starter Charlie Morton was terrific once again. He left the game with a 1-0 lead after striking out 11 batters and allowing six singles in 6 2/3 innings. Morton had thrown 19 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run before the Rays scored twice in the seventh.
"He's great, and it's a tough-luck loss for him because he pitched so well," Hinch said. "He threw the ball very well. He got out of some innings where he had a little bit of trouble with his breaking ball, and that's what we've seen out of him most of the year."
When Morton left in the seventh with runners at first and second, reliever Chris Devenski got Duffy to hit a pop up to right field that a hard-charging Reddick couldn't quite catch up with. Once he fielded the ball on a hop in foul territory, Reddick shuffled a few steps before realizing Joey Wendle hadn't stopped running from first base and was headed home, too. His throw was late, and the Rays took a 2-1 lead.
"I just kind of froze," Reddick said. "Unacceptable move. I've got to be better than that. There's no excuse for screwing that up. I've got to get the ball in, and even if throw it home early, he goes to second, at least that prevents the runner and we're still out there playing a ballgame right now."
Rays starter Blake Snell (11-4) sent down 19 of the first 21 batters he faced to extend his scoreless-inning streak to 17 before Gattis turned on a 1-0 fastball in the seventh and hit his 16th home run to extend the Astros' franchise-record streak of consecutive road games with a homer to 22. Gattis also homered off Sergio Romo to start the ninth.
"A lot of guys are swinging the bat a lot better than it shows," Gattis said. "We've been facing a different pitcher every inning, and they've all got really good stuff. It's frustrating any time you lose a series."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The Astros loaded the bases with one out in the eighth against Snell when Jake Marisnick reached on a strikeout-wild pitch, Tony Kemp beat out an infield single and Alex Bregman walked. Reliever Diego Castillo came in and struck out Jose Altuve swinging to end a 10-pitch at-bat, then got Yuli Gurriel to bounce out to end the threat.
"That's what everybody paid to see, and what you want and the guy you want up there," Hinch said of the Altuve at-bat. "They had their matchup that they wanted, and he threw a pretty nasty pitch on 3-2 that starts on the plate and ends off the plate. Kind of battle mode and their guy won. Certainly a huge part of the game."
Sunday marked the first time both an Astros starting pitcher and the opposing starter reached double-digit strikeouts since Sept. 22, 1999, Jose Lima had 10 for Houston and Todd Ritchie had 10 for the Pirates.
HE SAID IT
"It's one of those things where I just froze and locked up and didn't get the job done." -- Reddick, on his defensive miscue in the seventh
The Astros open a two-game series at 7:05 p.m. CT Tuesday against the Texas Rangers in Arlington, sending left-hander Dallas Keuchel (4-8, 4.22 ERA) to the mound. Keuchel allowed six runs and seven hits in 5 1/3 innings Wednesday. He's 9-9 with a 4.03 ERA in his career against Texas. Right-hander Austin Bibens-Dirkx (1-1, 3.57) will start for the Rangers.
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.