Rays' bats grounded as win streak ends in opener
Lineup posts first hit in seventh inning; ninth-inning rally falls short
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays' winning streak had to come to an end but surely it wouldn't be over Friday.
Not against the Astros. Not with defending American League Cy Young Award winner David Price on the mound and not against Houston's Jarred Cosart in his Major League debut.
Unlikely as it may have seemed Friday morning, Tampa Bay had its eight-game winning streak snapped at Tropicana Field as Houston walked away with a 2-1 win.
"We did fine," manager Joe Maddon said. "We just got outpitched tonight. That kid pitched a really good game tonight and you have to give him some credit. He has a really good arm."
Price -- who tweeted a good-luck message to Cosart before the game -- was impressive, pitching his second straight complete game and throwing just 17 balls.
Cosart was better.
The 23-year old right-hander allowed just two hits and carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning before Ben Zobrist singled through the right side with one out.
"When you look up in the seventh inning and there are no hits on the board, it's like, 'Hey man, this guy is definitely having a special night,'" designated hitter Luke Scott said. "It's not because we were off. It's because he was good. The kid was good."
Cosart -- who was optioned back to Triple-A following the start to make room for outfielder Justin Maxwell -- took notice of the no-hitter in the seventh.
"That's probably why they got that hit," he said. "I just realized now I know how hard it is to go a complete game."
The book on Cosart said he struggled with command, yet he only issued three walks Friday. Part of the problem for the Rays, however, was that the book wasn't very long. They only had what they had read about Cosart's Minor League outings.
The Rays didn't expect to see the late, cutting life Cosart had on his fastball, allowing him to paint corners and induce ground balls. Cosart collected 12 groundball outs Friday, four of them double plays.
"The DPs kicked us," Maddon said. "There were four tonight and they hurt. They're only fun when you turn them."
Price's night got off to a shaky start when he gave up four singles to Houston's first five hitters, the last of which, from catcher Carlos Corporan, plated the Astros' only two runs.
"I gave him two runs right out of the gate before he made a pitch, and I know the difference in having runs, especially if you can get them in the first before you go out there," Price said of Cosart. "He did a good job."
From there, Price settled down, scattering four hits over the final eight innings. He threw just 87 pitches Friday, the second time in as many outings he has pitched a complete game in fewer than 100 pitches.
In the three starts since he has returned from the disabled list, Price is averaging 10.2 pitches per inning.
"That's three [starts] in a row where he's been pretty much the same guy," Maddon said. "They hit a couple balls hard early on and I think he made some adjustments in the game. He really pitched well after that. He normally deserves a win after giving up two runs in nine innings."
The Rays looked to have sparked a swarming comeback in the ninth when Kelly Johnson drew a leadoff walk off Cosart. Porter then made the switch for closer Jose Veras, who got Yunel Escobar to ground into a double play.
But the Rays weren't quite done. Desmond Jennings hit a routine ground ball to shortstop Jake Elmore, who made a throwing error that allowed Jennings to reach.
Scott turned a nine-pitch at-bat into a single and Zobrist followed with another single, bringing Evan Longoria to the plate with runners at the corners. Longoria was called out on strikes, looking at a Veras sinker.
"Getting to Longo right there is what you want and we just got beat," Maddon said. "I love the fight. It's not going to be an oil painting every night but overall, the effort was there.
"You're not going to win every night in this game. It's about effort and intent. If we play with that kind of effort and intent on a nightly basis, we're going to win a lot of games. We just got slightly outpitched tonight."