HOUSTON -- For eight innings Monday, the Rays were better than the world champion Astros. Alas, Major League games are nine innings, and the Astros finished a come-from-behind 5-4 win in walk-off fashion to extend their winning streak to 12 games.
Sergio Romo started the ninth for the Rays and promptly walked Marwin Gonzalez on four pitches. Max Stassi followed with a single to left. Tony Kemp sacrificed the runners into scoring position, then George Springer reached on catcher's interference against the Rays' Wilson Ramos to load the bases. Alex Bregman followed with the game-winning hit, a double to the gap in left-center field that scored Gonzalez and Stassi.
"It's a tough one, no doubt," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "Leadoff walk, a couple of tough pitches, a couple of odd things take place, then Bregman comes up and gets a big hit."
The Rays got off to a fast start against Gerrit Cole, one of the top pitchers in the American League. Ramos homered in the first with a man aboard on the first pitch he saw from Cole, and Joey Wendle added a two-run single in the third to give the Rays a 4-0 lead against the tough right-hander.
"I like the fact we came out and scored some runs against arguably the best pitcher in the AL," Cash said. "You can see how talented he is, we got four runs against him, then he kind of dialed it in and got deep in the ballgame even though his pitch count got up there."
Unfortunately for the Rays, four runs would be the sum of their offense Monday night.
"We didn't score any there in the late innings," Wendle said. "So yeah, it's a tough one. Especially when we take an early lead like that. But we have to play a full nine."
Rays first baseman Jake Bauers gave credit to the bullpen for their performance on a "bullpen night" that saw the Rays use seven pitchers, adding that he felt the offense needed to do more.
"I think offensively we probably could have done a better job of stepping on their throats a little bit," Bauers said. "You jump out to a 4-0 lead after three. ... Teams like that that win World Series and go deep in playoffs are teams that don't stop at four [runs]. They put up eight."
In the fourth, Yuli Gurriel had an RBI single and Josh Reddick a sacrifice fly to cut the Rays' lead in half. Gurriel added an RBI single in the sixth to make it a one-run game, setting the stage for Bregman's heroics.
The Astros displayed relentlessness in trying to find a way to take the lead. Bauers was asked about that never-say-die attitude.
"I think the fact that we held the lead that long and hung with them that long shows more about us than it does them," Bauers said. "I think it shows you how close we are to being a really good team."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Carlos Correa struck out as Jose Altuve stole second base in the eighth inning, then took third on Ramos' throwing error. But Rays reliever Chaz Roe retired Gurriel on a popout to shortstop for the second out, then Tyler White grounded out to end the threat, leaving the Astros a run shy.
Ryne Stanek retired all five batters he faced in his start Monday night, marking the seventh hitless outing by a Rays starting pitcher this season, extending their Major League record for hitless starts in a single season. The previous high was five.
HE SAID IT
"I mean, obviously we took a loss. But it was a fun game. It's a fun game any time you jump out to a lead. We're fighting back, and we're holding them off." -- Bauers
Blake Snell will make his 16th start of the season Tuesday in Houston after allowing four runs -- his most since May 13 -- in his last start against the Yankees. He has yielded two runs or fewer in 12 starts this season. Steady veteran righty Justin Verlander will start for the Astros. Game time is 8:10 p.m. ET.