"Even after this loss, we're such a fun group that we'll show up tomorrow and guys will still be cracking jokes and having a lot of fun," said Astros catcher Max Stassi. "We'll go out there and play hard. We'll be fine."
A potential win No. 13 was in the hands of Justin Verlander, the Astros' grizzled ace who's possibly better suited to secure a 13th consecutive win than any other starting pitcher on the planet this season.
Verlander struck out 10 over 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball with 122 pitches, his most in a regular-season start since June 11, 2014, with the Tigers. It's was another phenomenal showing, with little offensive production behind it. The Astros scored one run while Verlander dotted 10 strikeouts, his most since tallying 14 on May 1, and the only blemish was a solo home run by C.J. Cron in the second inning.
"He was really good," said Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who returned from the disabled list Tuesday night. "It's been awhile since I faced big league pitching. He has the numbers he has for a reason. He was spectacular."
"I thought it was unbelievable," Stassi said. "His bullpen before the game was perfect. I've never caught a pregame bullpen session with him like that. It was awesome. He had conviction of all four pitches -- located up, located down, in and out. He had Verlander stuff."
Hector Rondon entered in the seventh inning with a runner on second base as Verlander's pitch count soared, needing one out to complete the inning unscathed. He did.
Rondon returned for the eighth inning and allowed an RBI single to Rays catcher Wilson Ramos. Ramos' single, which gave the Rays a 2-1 lead, was the first run Rondon had allowed since May 13.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED The Astros' hottest hitter of late, Evan Gattis, was in position to strike with one out and runners on first and third in the first inning. Gattis flied out to Carlos Gomez in short right field, but far enough for George Springer to attempt to reach home on a potential sacrifice fly. Ramos bobbled Gomez's throw, but Springer missed the plate on his slide and Ramos tagged him to end the inning with a double play.
SOUND SMART Yes, Verlander's 122 pitches were the most he's thrown in a regular-season game in years, but they were not the most he's thrown in a calendar year. He threw 124 pitches in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series against the Yankees on Oct. 14.
The Astros are 0-3 when Verlander strikes out 10-plus batters this season. They have scored a total of two runs in those games.
HE SAID IT "It's something special. To understand that when I'm coming off the mound, I think these fans appreciate not just what I've done, but just going out there trying to grind, throw 120 pitches and get us to the seventh inning. I think that's what they were cheering for. That's what we work for. I work my butt off to be able to try to go out there and extend it and go an extra inning night in and night out." -- Verlander, on receiving a standing ovation following his 122-pitch outing
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY Bregman plunged a deep liner in the third inning off the wall in right-center field and drove in Springer from second base. Attempting to take second while Springer charged home, Bregman overshot the bag on his slide and was tagged out by Adeiny Hechavarria on a close play as he lunged back. The Astros challenged the call, but it would stand.
UP NEXT The Astros will conclude their three-game series against the Rays at 7:10 p.m. CT on Wednesday at Minute Maid Park. Right-handed veteran Charlie Morton will get the ball for Houston against Tampa Bay righty Nathan Eovaldi. Morton picked up his eighth win of the season on Friday in Kansas City.
Christian Boutwell is a reporter for MLB.com based in Houston.