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Snell lights-out as Rays end series with a bang

MLB.com @wwchastain

ST. PETERSBURG -- Blake Snell needed a little help from the offense Sunday, and he got it late in the Rays' 3-2 win over the Astros at Tropicana Field.

Tampa Bay finished its nine-game homestand against the Yankees, Nationals and Astros with an impressive 8-1 mark to move to 42-41 on the season.

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ST. PETERSBURG -- Blake Snell needed a little help from the offense Sunday, and he got it late in the Rays' 3-2 win over the Astros at Tropicana Field.

Tampa Bay finished its nine-game homestand against the Yankees, Nationals and Astros with an impressive 8-1 mark to move to 42-41 on the season.

View Full Game Coverage

Snell made his 18th start, and each one thrown begs the same question: How much better can he get? Sunday he allowed one run in 7 1/3 innings, while striking out 10 to move to 11-4 on the season.

Video: HOU@TB: Snell K's Stassi, strikes out the side in 2nd

"I liked my changeup," Snell said. "But then the curveball came into play later on. I liked how I mixed it up. I stayed away a lot because I felt like a lot of them were sitting on fastballs."

Snell has now allowed just one run or fewer in 11 consecutive home starts. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that tied the longest such streak in the American League since 1913 -- when earned runs were officially kept in both leagues..

Snell's pitching is "nasty," Astros manager AJ Hinch said. "He's mid-to-upper 90s with a power breaking ball and pretty good changeup. It looks like his delivery has cleaned up over the last couple of years where he can get down the hill and stay in the strike zone where it's tough to hit. He's killing the whole league and he's a nice, young pitcher."

After six scoreless innings, Snell surrendered a solo home run to Evan Gattis that put the Astros up 1-0, leaving the southpaw's fate in the hands of the Rays' offense.

The bats came through.

Matt Duffy dropped a single just inside the right-field line and pinch-runner Adeiny Hechavarria raced home from second base with the tying run.

Video: HOU@TB: Duffy hits a go-ahead 2-run single in the 7th

"That pitch, I didn't recognize it," Duffy said. "Once I saw where it was going, I saw that it was at least going to be in the strike zone. I was trying to fight it off. ... Sometimes that happens. Most of the time, it doesn't end up in a hit."

Right fielder Josh Reddick paused after retrieving Duffy's single and Joey Wendle also scored on the play, making a mad dash from first to give the Rays a 2-1 lead.

"My back was to the play," Wendle said. "My goal there is just to run as hard as I can and make [third base coach Matt Quatraro] stop me. It looked like he was kind of reading the play as it went, and he kind of gave me a subtle wave, like, 'Hey, go home.' So I just took off running."

Reddick said he "kind of blanked" when he fielded Duffy's single.

"I didn't see how far Wendle was off the base and I kind of froze," Reddick said. "Unacceptable move. I have to be better than that, and there's no excuse for screwing that up."

Mallex Smith connected for his first home run of the season, a solo shot in the eighth, to provide an insurance run Tampa Bay would prove to need when Gattis went deep again in the ninth.

Video: HOU@TB: Smith clubs a solo homer, does quick workout

"Blake's pitching [was the difference for the Rays]," Cash said. "Kind of went toe-to-toe with [Astros starter Charlie] Morton. They were both outstanding. It didn't seem like either one was going to falter. Then Gattis comes up and hits the big home run.

"We found a way to answer back. We've done that here a lot lately. But anytime you get starting pitching like we've been getting, we're going to stay in ballgames. It just bought our offense time to piece enough together."

MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Diego Castillo entered the game to take over from Snell with one out in the eighth and the bases loaded to face a large task wrapped in a small package. Jose Altuve, who is perhaps baseball's best hitter, stands 5-foot-6, offering the pitcher a strike zone the size of a Whitman Sampler. An epic battle followed that Castillo ultimately won by striking out Altuve on the 10th pitch for the second out.

"Probably not the best situation to put a young pitcher in," Cash said. "But he seemed to rise up to it. Altuve gave him a great at-bat. Fouled off a bunch of pitches, and then ultimately Diego got him on a slider. He definitely stays very calm in that moment."

Castillo did not get lost in the afterglow of the moment, getting the next hitter, Yuli Gurriel, to ground to short. Hechavarria skipped the ball to first, but Jake Bauers made a nice scoop to secure the third out.

Video: HOU@TB: Castillo strands bases loaded in the 8th 

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Clearly, Houston's Jake Marisnick has seen enough of Tampa Bay center fielders. Saturday, Kevin Kiermaier robbed him of a hit with a 3-star catch according to Statcast™, in the sixth. Smith was in center for the Rays on Sunday, but the result was the same. This time, Marisnick hit a ball to deep center field and Smith tracked it down, making the grab shortly before climbing the wall. According to Statcast™, Smith's 4-star catch had a 48 percent catch probability. Smith needed to go 108 feet in 5.5 seconds, and reached a sprint speed of 29.0 feet per second (30+ is elite for MLB players).

Smith channels his inner Bo Jackson

Video: HOU@TB: Smith ranges 108 feet for running grab in CF

UP NEXT
Nathan Eovaldi will start Monday in a 7:10 p.m. ET contest when the Rays begin a three-game series in Miami against the Marlins at Marlins Park. Eovaldi held the Nationals hitless for 5 2/3 innings in his last outing to earn his second win of the season. Left-hander Wei-Yin Chen will start for the Marlins.

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2004.

Tampa Bay Rays, Blake Snell