ST. PETERSBURG -- Astros pitcher Lance McCullers finally made himself at home at Tropicana Field, with the help of a few contributors along the way.
McCullers threw seven brilliant innings and combined with relievers Chris Devenski and Hector Rondon for a six-hit shutout as the Astros made a fifth-inning homer from Jake Marisnick stand up for their franchise-record-tying 11th consecutive road victory, a 1-0 win over the Rays on Thursday.
The Astros (55-28) won for the 18th time in their past 21 games, posting their eighth shutout of the season.
"Everybody that got on the mound tonight was really good, and especially Lance," Astros manager AJ Hinch said. "That was as efficient and dominant as he's been early in the game, with just out after out after out -- some soft contact, a couple of hits. He was in control of himself, which makes him in control of his pitches. He was impressive."
McCullers (9-3), the Tampa native who was 0-2 with a 6.00 ERA in his previous two starts at Tropicana Field, picked up his first career win in front of his hometown crowd. He improved to 3-0 with a 2.84 ERA over his last six starts.
"It's cool," McCullers said. "Everyone that is pretty much here, though, has been out to Houston, or elsewhere, to see me pitch. So it's nice that it's here, but [the Rays] were hot. They were playing good baseball coming in. So it was nice. We got the first one. We just need to keep on winning and get the series."
After McCullers got key strikeouts of Wilson Ramos to end the sixth and Carlos Gomez to finish off the seventh, stranding a runner in scoring position both times, Devenski pitched out of trouble in the eighth and Rondon stranded the tying run at second base to end the game with his third strikeout of the ninth.
"Late in the game, the bullpen, in that situation, it's a little bit tough to come in with a one-run lead," said Rondon, who got his fifth save. "I just came in pounding the zone and tried to get people out quickly."
Marisnick crushed a 2-2 pitch from reliever Ryan Yarbrough with one out in the fifth for a long home run, his seventh of the season. Marisnick tied a career high by reaching base four times (2-for-2 with a walk and hit by pitch).
"Obviously, any time you can help the team win, it feels good," Marisnick said. "Offense has been feeling good lately, and I can't thank these guys enough for how much effort and work they put in."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Defense saves it: Devenski faced trouble in the eighth when Willy Adames led off with a double and Kevin Kiermaier followed with a bunt single to put runners on the corners. With Kiermaier breaking for second, Matt Duffy, who unsuccessfully tried to put down a squeeze bunt to begin the at-bat, hit a 100-mph laser right at shortstop Marwin Gonzalez, who threw to first to double up Kiermaier. Devenski then got Jake Bauers to ground out, stranding Adames at third.
"From a mess in a one-run game to a double play and a favorable matchup with Devo against a lefty in Bauers, that was a huge point," Hinch said.
Marisnick became the first Houston player to homer in a 1-0 win since Matt Downs on June 27, 2012, against San Diego, and the first on the road since Kevin Bass on Aug. 19, 1986, at Pittsburgh. Marisnick is the first player batting ninth to homer in a 1-0 win since Gerrit Cole for the Pirates on Aug. 26, 2017, at Cincinnati.
HE SAID IT
"He has weapons that he trusts a little bit more now than ever before. ... He's really turning himself into a viable three-pitch pitcher at any point of the game, and the hitters have difficulty adjusting to him." -- Hinch, on McCullers
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
The Astros successfully challenged a call to begin the first after Kiermaier was called safe at first base while McCullers was covering a throw from Tyler White. The replay official determined that McCullers' foot touched the bag prior to Kiermaier's, and the call was overturned.
Cole (9-1, 2.56 ERA) faces the Rays for the second time in three starts in Friday's 6:10 p.m. CT game at Tropicana Field. Cole leads the American League in opponent batting average (.170) and hits allowed per nine innings (5.3), with 146 strikeouts in 105 2/3 innings. Right-hander Wilmer Font (1-3, 6.46) will start for Tampa Bay.