Unlike last season, interleague play is working out quite well for the Houston Astros.
The Astros look to stay unbeaten against the American League as they host the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the middle game of their series at Minute Maid Park.
Houston, which went 5-7 in interleague play last season, improved to 4-0 this year as Jeff Kent’s go-ahead, two-run single in the eighth inning helped the Astros hold off the Devil Rays 11-8 Friday.
“It was a mildly entertaining game,” Jeff Bagwell said. “We squandered a 7-0 lead and then came back so it was an exciting game for the fans. But it didn’t do much for the players.”
Houston, which moved past the Chicago Cubs into first place in the NL Central for the first time since April 15, led 7-0 after two innings, then fell behind 8-7 when Marlon Anderson hit an RBI double off Octavio Dotel in the eighth.
The win was Houston’s fifth straight overall, and seventh in eight games.
Rookie right-hander Jonathan Johnson makes his second start after pitching well in his first one on May 28. He limited the Cardinals to three runs and eight hits in 5 2-3 innings, but took the loss in St. Louis 3-1 win.
The Devil Rays, who have dropped nine of their last 12 games, went 7-11 in interleague play last season.
STANDINGS: Devil Rays - 5th place, 13 GB, AL East. Astros - 1st place, NL Central.
DEVIL RAYS PROBABLE STARTER: Carlos Reyes (0-2, 6.75 ERA). Reyes has been ineffective in his first two starts for Tampa Bay this season, allowing nine runs and 13 hits in his 12 innings of work. In his last start, he allowed five runs and seven hits over five innings of a 9-4 defeat on Sunday. He has never faced the Astros in his career.
ASTROS PROBABLE STARTER: Johnson (0-1, 4.05 ERA). Johnson pitched an inning of relief in Monday’s 11-6 win over Baltimore, allowing one run and two hits, but didn’t figure in the decision.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Devil Rays - Rocco Baldelli, .336 avg.; Baldelli and Aubrey Huff, 32 RBIs; Huff, 14 HRs and 36 runs; Carl Crawford, 15 SBs. Astros - Kent, .324 avg. and 43 RBIs; Jeff Bagwell, 11 HRs; Lance Berkman, 42 runs; Adam Everett, 6 SBs.
INTERLEAGUE RECORDS: Devil Rays - 1-3; Astros 4-0.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Devil Rays - INF/OF Jeff Liefer was claimed off waivers from Montreal on Friday. Liefer, 28, hit just .193 with three homers and 18 RBI in 35 games for the Expos before being released. Liefer will be the 41st player used this season by the Devil Rays, who have made 15 roster moves in the last 30 days. … To make room on the 40-man roster, RHP Seth McClung (right elbow strain) was transferred from the 15-day to the 60-day disabled list. When Liefer reports Saturday, Tampa will make another move to make room on the 25-man roster. … The Devil Rays dropped to 4-20 all-time in first games in new parks including wins at Pac Bell, Edison Field, the Kingdome and Camden Yard. Houston - OF Berkman is batting .617 (30-for-51) during a 13-game hitting streak with four homers, three doubles, a triple and 12 RBIs. … OF Richard Hidalgo, on the DL since May 23 with tonsillitis, will be activated for Saturday’s game and OF Colin Porter will be sent back to Triple-A New Orleans. … 3B Morgan Ensberg has 13 hits in his last 19 at-bats, with five home runs and 14 RBIs.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Devil Rays - 10-20 on the road; Astros - 19-12 at home.
INJURIES: Devil Rays - LHP Joe Kennedy (shoulder), 15-day DL; SS Rey Ordonez (knee), 15-day DL; RHP McClung (elbow), 60-day DL. Astros - OF Hidalgo (tonsillitis), 15-day DL; LHP Carlos Hernandez (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Brian Moehler (forearm), 15-day DL.