HOUSTON -- The Astros won. Again.
And this time, in their franchise record-tying 12th consecutive victory, they didn't grab the lead until the very end of the game. Alex Bregman delivered the walk-off, two-run double to cap a comeback from four runs down and give Houston a 5-4 win over the Rays on Monday at Minute Maid Park.
Houston has compiled winning streaks of 12 games in 1999, 2004 and, now, 2018.
"We're having a blast," Bregman said. "We're having the time of our lives with our best friends in the world."
This win required a bit of effort. Marwin Gonzalez began the ninth inning with a leadoff walk against Rays reliever Sergio Romo. Max Stassi, in his first at-bat of the evening, then rifled a single to left field. After Tony Kemp moved both runners up a base with a sacrifice bunt, George Springer reached on catcher's interference to load the bases. Bregman lined the third pitch he saw into the gap in left-center field for the game-winner.
"The guys executed the plan perfectly," said Astros starter Gerrit Cole, who labored early before settling in and pitching seven innings. "And then Bregman punished them."
Cole allowed a pair of runs in the first on Wilson Ramos' two-run shot and another two in the third on Joey Wendle's two-run single. Cole walked a career-high five batters on the night, but he retired 13 of the final 14 batters he faced while throwing a season-high 116 pitches.
"He just had a hard time finding his pitches," said Astros manager AJ Hinch. "It was the tale of two different games. He got locked in and was really, really good, and finished as strong as he's been the entire season."
The Astros (49-25) have scored 137 runs in the seventh inning or later this season, the most in the Majors.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Tale of two Gerrits: Monday delivered a version of Cole the Astros hadn't seen much of before. He issued three of his five walks in the third inning, and Wendle made him pay with a two-run single. But he found his command in the fourth.
He got on a roll, and finished the seventh on an athletic play on a comebacker.
"It was nice to get that opportunity to hammer in some of the things that I was doing well after I got myself in a hole," Cole said of the seventh. "One more inning to take off the bullpen. One more inning to try to give the guys a shot to hold the deficit where it was."
Said Hinch: "That game was very weird from the onset, because we've never really seen Cole without command of his breaking ball. Every walk that he created seemed to hurt him. First-inning walk, then a homer, and all of a sudden, it's 2-0. Then walking the bases loaded, which is a rarity. He just had a hard time finding his pitches.
"[Cole] collecting himself and being able to stay in the game was huge for us because we didn't have to rifle through our bullpen, starting in the third or fourth inning."
Bregman, who was 0-for-4 entering his final at-bat, extended his streak of reaching base to 29 consecutive games with the walk-off hit. That's the second-highest active streak in the Majors, behind Shin-Soo Choo's 32-game streak.
Speaking of Bregman, he made his second career appearance in left field. The Astros implemented two pinch-hitters in the bottom of the sixth inning, forcing multiple defensive changes, including Bregman's move to left. It was his first appearance in left field since 2016.
HE SAID IT
"I think that's kind of the common theme when you talk about any good team. Not only do you have the talent and the type of players that allow you to win that many games, but you have to win the ugly ones. You have to win the easy ones. You have to win the grinders. You have to come back. You have to stay ahead. You've got to be good at everything if you're going to win the number of games that we're trying to win." -- Cole
The Astros send Justin Verlander to the mound at 7:10 p.m. CT on Tuesday for Game 2 of their three-game series against the Rays at Minute Maid Park. In 15 starts (100 1/3 innings), Verlander has allowed just 18 earned runs (1.61 ERA). Emerging lefty Blake Snell will make his 16th start of the season for Tampa Bay.