Rays' incredible home win streak comes to an end

Tampa Bay shut out by Houston for first loss at Tropicana Field this season

April 26th, 2023

ST. PETERSBURG -- For the first time this year, there was no postgame party in the home clubhouse at Tropicana Field. Nobody recognized the players of the game or consumed any celebratory drinks. There was no booming music.

The Rays suffered their first home loss of the season on Tuesday night, ending their record-breaking start at Tropicana Field with a 5-0 loss to the Astros.

“It was a little weird walking in there right there with no music or anything like that,” manager Kevin Cash said. “But I'm guessing they'll get the music back on soon.”

On Monday, Tampa Bay became the first team in the Modern Era (since 1900) to win 14 consecutives games at home to begin a season. But that streak -- as well as an overall six-game winning streak -- finally concluded with a forgettable performance against the defending World Series champions.

In losing for just the fourth time in 24 games, the Rays were shut out for the first time this season.

“It’s definitely different. This team has been really good here -- I mean, really good in general,” starter said. “But it's definitely different not to have music playing.”

Rasmussen gave up a career-high-tying five earned runs after surrendering six hits (including four doubles) in a seven-batter span in the fifth inning. Tampa Bay’s defense didn’t help Rasmussen’s cause, either, as left fielder misread a line drive that, if caught, could have limited the damage to three runs.

But the real issue, and perhaps the biggest surprise, was that the Rays’ offense finally had an off night. Tampa Bay finished with two walks, eight strikeouts and a season-low-tying five hits against Houston.

The Majors’ top lineup so far this season simply couldn’t get anything going against Astros starter Luis Garcia, who leaned on his cutter as he held the Rays to three hits while striking out seven over six innings.

“He can really spin the baseball really well,” Cash said. “He's got, like, three different breaking balls that he can throw in the zone whenever he wants and throw out of the zone kind of when he wants. It just felt like he kept us off-balance all night.”

Rasmussen got off to a shaky start, loading the bases on two walks and a single with one out in the first inning, but he recovered nicely after that. He got out of a 27-pitch first without allowing a run, then needed only 37 pitches to complete the next three innings.

Rasmussen began the fifth by striking out Martín Maldonado, but then the inning got away from him. Mauricio Dubón and Jeremy Peña hit back-to-back doubles to put Houston on the board, and Peña scored on a Kyle Tucker single to center. José Abreu then pulled a two-strike, two-out double down the left-field line to give the Astros a 3-0 lead.

Up came Corey Julks, who smashed a 100.5 mph line drive to left. Arozarena took a few steps in on the ball, crouched and then leapt, stretching his glove in the air as the ball sailed over his head and bounced toward the wall for another RBI double.

“I thought it was a lower liner,” Arozarena said through communications manager Elvis Martinez. “I took two steps forward instead of back, and it went over me.”

The rally continued as Jake Meyers hit a two-hop grounder up the middle, which bounced off a sliding Wander Franco’s glove for an RBI single that made it a 5-0 game. Having thrown 94 pitches to record 14 outs, Rasmussen then gave way to reliever Heath Hembree, who finished the inning.

“You miss over the big part of the plate in leverage counts, and damage tends to get done,” said Rasmussen, who allowed a career-high-tying nine hits. “They found some holes and they were able to exploit some bad pitches, and that's just how this game works. But it is one of those things where we just continued to attack, and unfortunately, it didn't work out.”

While their bullpen put up zeroes the rest of the way, the Rays couldn’t dig themselves out of a five-run hole. Franco’s Major League-leading 12th double was their only extra-base hit. They only had three at-bats, and no hits, with a runner in scoring position.

For the first time in 15 games, the home team’s bats and clubhouse speakers were quiet.

“We've done some really good stuff this year, and we've had a lot of fun doing so,” Rasmussen said. “It'll be nice to get back on track tomorrow.”