Astros-Rays Preview

The Associated Press

The quality starts keep coming for the Tampa Bay Rays - and so do the victories.

Chris Archer looks to keep that trend going for Tampa Bay as it tries to close the season's first half with another win over the Houston Astros at Tropicana Field on Sunday.

The Rays (54-41) won for the 13th time in 15 games Saturday, 4-3, as Roberto Hernandez provided the club with its 14th straight quality start. Tampa Bay starters have posted a pedestrian 4.02 ERA this season, but they've compiled a 2.09 mark in the last 14 contests.

Archer (3-3, 3.59 ERA) is responsible for two of those 14 quality starts, giving up a combined three runs and five hits in 12 innings. He notched a victory in Tuesday's 4-1 win over Minnesota and issued no walks for the first time in 14 major league games (12 starts).

The right-hander averaged 5.2 walks per nine innings in seven previous starts this season.

"It felt good to have good stuff and to be able to harness it," he told the team's official website.

He walked three while also allowing two runs in six innings but didn't get a decision in a 7-5 win in Houston on July 4.

Houston (33-60) will counter with Erik Bedard (3-5, 4.67), whose 23 starts and 11 wins against the Rays are his most against any team. He has lost the last three, however, including an 8-0 defeat on July 2 when he gave up four runs and walked a career-worst six in 5 1-3 innings. He had gone 3-1 with a 3.23 ERA in nine starts prior to that game.

Bedard's control didn't improve much since last facing Tampa Bay as he issued five walks and allowed five runs over 6 1-3 innings in a 5-4 loss at Texas last Sunday.

"I thought that Erik did a great job just battling through all the conditions in which he battled through to go 6 1-3 and give us the outing that he gave us," manager Bo Porter told the club's official website.

Pitching around Luke Scott may not be a bad idea after the designated hitter was 2 for 4 with a home run Saturday, improving to 14 for 32 (.438) over a nine-game hitting streak with eight RBIs. He's 2 for 4 against Bedard.

"I've had some moments in my career like this and even better, where the baseball slows down for me and the swing feels good and I'm not missing the pitches I've been getting to hit," said Scott, who has three homers during his run. "It's familiar territory, but it's been a long time and I'm enjoying it."

Wil Myers is also 7 for 15 over his last four games, but Evan Longoria's troubles continued with an 0-for 4 performance. Longoria is 4 for 40 in his last 11 contests, dropping his average 24 points to .277.

Jose Altuve was 1 for 4 and scored a run in his first game since the Astros announced his contract extension through 2017, including team options for 2018 and 2019.

"Jose has quickly become the face of the franchise is less than two years, and we are excited to keep him here for many years to come," general manager Jeff Luhnow said of the second baseman, who has hit .284 with 61 steals in 291 games since debuting for Houston on July 20, 2011.

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