HOUSTON -- The Rays handed Dallas Keuchel his first loss in nearly a full calendar year, rolling through Houston's ace and the Astros' bullpen for a 3-0 win on Wednesday at Minute Maid Park.
With the win, the Rays (56-53) gained ground in the American League Wild Card race and are now just a half-game out of a berth.
Logan Morrison's two-run, two-out blast in the first inning supported Tampa Bay's fresh-faced starter, Austin Pruitt, who was recalled on July 28 to begin his third stint in the Majors this season.
Pruitt, who grew up in Houston and had dozens of family members and friends in attendance, tossed 6 1/3 superb innings, allowing no runs on five hits with three K's against the American League's most powerful offense.
"Another good win. Austin Pruitt was awesome," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "I know he had a ton of family and friends [here]. ... He was excited to pitch here, and all the talk about it. But to go out and perform like [that] had to have been pretty special for him."
In his second start since returning from the disabled list on July 28, Keuchel did not have his usual pinpoint-like command, allowing seven hits on 87 pitches in five innings.
• Despite loss, Keuchel moving in right direction
"Just had runners on, just couldn't quite get the two-out out to finish the inning," Keuchel said. "That's what [happened] in Detroit and then today. So we'll clean it up. I need to be better. It all started with me, [I was] just kind of slow, kind of methodical, and guys just fed off of that. It wasn't a good game by any means. We'll look to make some adjustments from there."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Road warrior LoMo: Two at-bats after Trevor Plouffe tagged Keuchel with a quick single to left field, Morrison plopped a two-run homer into the Astros' bullpen in right field. It was his second first-inning blast in two days, and he now leads the Majors in home runs on the road, with 20.
Rays' escape act: The Astros didn't have much offense against Pruitt, and when they did, nothing came from it. In the seventh inning, Marwin Gonzalez hit a double. After Carlos Beltran flied out to left, Pruitt exited and was replaced by Steve Cishek. Brian McCann drew a walk, putting two Astros on base, but two pitches later, Alex Bregman hit into the Astros' third inning-ending double play of the night.
"It was a tough night for us offensively," said Astros manager A.J. Hinch. "Frustrating for us. All three double-play balls we hit into were opportunities. We felt like we were building innings. We do it a lot of times to other teams, but it takes a little bit of life out of you when you build a couple situations when you're struggling to score on a particular night and they get a two-for-one. Tough night for us."
"I feel better, so that's all that really matters. Command-wise, it's still a little iffy. It needs to get a lot better. Threw some good breaking balls, but at the same time, there were quite a few waste pitches. I'm not trying to waste any pitches up there. I'm trying to make some early contact and get some early outs, but it seems like that's the opposite of what's going on right now." -- Keuchel, on his progression from his first start post-DL to Wednesday's outing
"Like I said, we're on a mission, man. We want to get to the playoffs, and we're doing everything we can to [do that]. If we have a bad game, shake it off and go get 'em the next day. We still have a lot of games left. Still have a lot of winning left to do. So that's our focus." -- Morrison, on how the Rays have responded against the Astros after losing three out of four to the Yankees
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Prior to Pruitt, the last pitcher born in the Houston area to win his first career start at Minute Maid Park was Rays teammate Nathan Eovaldi, then with the Yankees, who earned the victory when New York defeated the Astros on June 26, 2015.
Rays:Blake Snell (0-6, 4.87 ERA) will get the nod on Thursday when the Rays wrap up their four-game series with the Astros in an 8:10 p.m. ET contest at Minute Maid Park. Snell last faced the Astros on April 22 at Tropicana Field, and surrendered solo home runs to Evan Gattis and Jose Altuve.
Astros:Collin McHugh (0-0, 4.22 ERA) will close out the four-game series against the Rays at 7:10 p.m. CT on Thursday at Minute Maid Park. This will be his third start since being activated from the disabled list.
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