HOUSTON -- Steven Souza Jr. went 2-for-4 with a solo homer and a go-ahead, two-run double in the seventh inning to lead the Rays to their third consecutive win, 5-3, and a series victory over the first-place Astros on Thursday night at Minute Maid Park.The Rays, who remain a half-game
HOUSTON -- Steven Souza Jr. went 2-for-4 with a solo homer and a go-ahead, two-run double in the seventh inning to lead the Rays to their third consecutive win, 5-3, and a series victory over the first-place Astros on Thursday night at Minute Maid Park.
The Rays, who remain a half-game behind the Royals in the American League Wild Card race, took three of four from the Astros, recovering from a 14-1 loss in Monday's series opener. The Astros tied a season high with their third consecutive loss, falling for the sixth time in eight games.
Astros starter Collin McHugh, making his 2017 home debut, held Tampa Bay to two runs (one earned) and struck out six over six innings. Souza led off the sixth with a homer to left field to cut Houston's lead to 3-2, and the Rays scored three runs in the seventh against the Astros' bullpen, capped by Souza's two-run double off Chris Devenski.
"That's a great pitcher out there in Devenski," Souza said. "Devenski's a shutdown All-Star. We've got guys on first and third with two outs. That's the turning point of the game. Thankfully, that ball dropped and [Evan Longoria] scored all the way from first."
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"Just not very clean baseball from us recently," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "It's not the way we've been for the better part of this season, it's not the way we're going to be moving forward. We took it on the chin this series."
Yuli Gurriel went 2-for-4, including an RBI double in the first, and Jose Altuve had three hits for the Astros, including a solo homer in the third that put Houston ahead, 2-1. Alex Bregman's RBI single in the fifth made it 3-1 and chased Rays starter Blake Snell after four-plus innings.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Boxberger to the rescue: Snell allowed the first three batters to reach in the fifth on a walk and back-to-back singles by Altuve and Bregman, which gave the Astros a 3-1 lead. Reliever Brad Boxberger shut the door, getting Gurriel to fly out and Evan Gattis to hit into an inning-ending double play. Boxberger struck out the side swinging in the sixth, notching the win.
Great D: Consecutive two-out singles in the seventh, followed by a double steal, put runners at second and third for the Astros, who were trailing, 5-3. Gurriel hit a line drive to left field that Corey Dickerson jumped and caught on the run for the third out, preserving the lead.
"We put up a pretty good fight there and did a good job, probably the best execution of the night with the double steal," Hinch said. "We put ourselves in position where a single would tie, and then Yuli hits the ball right on the nose and it doesn't hook quite enough. Dickerson made a good play. Dickerson was a thorn in our side on both sides of the ball."
Earlier in the inning, Rays third baseman Longoria fielded and juggled a grounder off the bat of Jake Marisnick, but recovered to throw out the speedster.
"Souz gets a ton of credit. Big hits. That's why we miss him when he's not in the lineup. I know he banged his foot up, but we need his bat because he balances it out. He gives us that right-hander in there that thickens us up and challenges righty or lefty, and he came up with two huge hits today." -- Rays manager Kevin Cash, on Souza, who played despite having a sore left foot
"It's not our time right now. I want our guys to shower, go home, come back for a new series tomorrow and get back to playing with better ways, including the bullpen. We will. I have a lot of confidence. I haven't lost one ounce of confidence in our bullpen." -- Hinch, on the series loss
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
All of Souza's 23 home runs this season have come against right-handers. The last right-handed hitter to have that distinction was Lee May of the Astros, whose first 24 home runs in 1972 came against right-handers.
LIRIANO MAKES DEBUT
Veteran left-hander Francisco Liriano, acquired Monday in a trade from the Blue Jays, faced three batters to start the seventh in his Astros debut. After retiring Adeiny Hechavarria, Liriano allowed a single and a walk before exiting, giving up two runs (one earned) and taking the loss. More >
Astros catcher Gattis stayed in the game despite being hit on the head by a Dickerson backswing on a flyout to end the eighth. Gattis was knocked to the side, and was tended to by a trainer and Hinch before remaining in the game.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
The Rays used a challenge in the ninth when Souza maintained he got hit by a pitch from Astros right-hander Francis Martes. After a two-minute review, the call on the field was confirmed.
Rays:Jacob Faria (5-1, 2.93 ERA) will get the nod Friday when the Rays return home from an eight-game road trip to face the Brewers in a 7:10 p.m. ET contest at Tropicana Field. Faria has eight quality starts in his first 10 outings, the most ever by a Rays pitcher through 10 career appearances.
Astros:Brad Peacock (9-1, 2.62) starts the opener of a three-game series against the Blue Jays at 7:10 p.m. CT on Friday at Minute Maid Park. Peacock, who last started on July 24 in Philadelphia, was removed from the rotation when Dallas Keuchel returned from the disabled list, and put back into it when Lance McCullers went back on the DL.
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Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.
Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005.