Astros-Rays Preview

The Associated Press

After being stymied by a Houston right-hander making his major league debut, the Tampa Bay Rays will attempt to rebound from their second loss in three weeks.

The Rays look to get back on track offensively while trying to prevent the visiting Astros from winning two straight for the first time in almost a month Saturday.

Tampa Bay (53-41) averaged 5.0 runs during an eight-game winning streak that ended with Friday's 2-1 loss. The Rays scored 28 runs while taking three of four against the Astros (33-59) to open July, but they didn't have a hit against starter Jarred Cosart until Ben Zobrist's single in the seventh inning.

They managed four hits, including Luke Scott's run-scoring single in the ninth.

"If we were hitting the ball consistently, even hard outs, I would have felt more confident," manager Joe Maddon said. "He had it going on."

The defeat was the second in 14 games for Tampa Bay, which has surged into one of the two wild-card spots in the AL. The Rays also had a nine-game winning streak at home snapped.

Houston, meanwhile, ended a three-game slide by winning for the fourth time in 16 games. On the heels of Cosart's two-hit, eight-inning gem, the Astros look to win back-to-back contests for the first time since a four-game run June 12-16.

"Just to get eight innings in and get a win, I can't ask for more," Cosart said. "Hopefully we can get a good thing going here."

Backup catcher Carlos Corporan delivered a two-run single in the first inning for Houston.

All-Star Zobrist had two hits and is 6 for 17 (.353) in the last five games after going 3 for 28 in his previous seven.

Teammate Evan Longoria is 7 for 52 (.135) in his last 16 contests.

Tampa Bay looks to regroup and put forth another strong offensive effort like it did against scheduled Houston starter Dallas Keuchel (4-5, 4.59 ERA) on July 1. The left-hander yielded five runs, eight hits and walked a season-high five in 4 2-3 innings of a 12-0 loss.

Keuchel is 0-2 with a 5.89 ERA in his last four appearances, which included 2 2-3 innings of relief last month. He gave up two runs over five innings in a 9-5 win at Texas last Saturday.

Tampa Bay starters have a 2.11 ERA in the last 10 games, but Roberto Hernandez (4-10, 4.93) tries to avoid matching a major league high with an 11th loss Saturday.

The right-hander is 0-4 in his last five starts, and Tampa Bay won for the first time during that stretch when he allowed three runs in six innings of a 7-4 victory over Minnesota on Monday.

Hernandez gave up three runs in six innings of a 4-1 loss at Houston on July 3.

J.D. Martinez, who went 0 for 2 with a strikeout against Hernandez in that contest, is 9 for 21 in his last five games.

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