Rays-Astros Preview

The Tampa Bay Rays have never fared too well on the road on Independence Day, but could be facing the right pitcher at the right time.

Houston Astros starter Jordan Lyles has been much worse in day games compared to night contests heading into Thursday's finale of this four-game set at Minute Maid Park.

Tampa Bay (45-40) has dropped eight of nine road games on July 4.

Although Lyles (4-3, 3.99 ERA) has never faced the Rays, he's 1-3 with a 7.01 ERA in five day starts as opposed to 3-0 with a 2.14 mark in seven at night.

The right-hander had gone seven straight starts in which he allowed two runs or fewer before he yielded 12 - nine earned - in losing his last two. He gave up four runs over four innings in Saturday's 7-2 defeat to the Angels.

Lyles will hope for the kind of support Chris Carter provided Wednesday with two homers and a career-high four RBIs in a 4-1 victory. Carter broke a 22-inning scoreless drought for Houston with a solo shot in the second, and he's the only Astros hitter to drive in a run over the last four games.

The Rays totaled 20 runs in winning the first two games of this series.

"It's nice to score some runs and get a win after the last two games where we didn't score and they outscored us by 20 runs,'' Carter said. "I'm just happy we came out with a win right there.''

Houston (31-54) ended a five-game slide even though it has still only totaled nine runs over its last six contests. The Astros also halted a seven-game slide against the Rays - all at home.

Rays first baseman James Loney is 5 for 11 in this series and batting .411 during a 14-game streak. He leads the majors with a .371 road average.

Desmond Jennings is 5 for 12 in this series while batting leadoff after being in the No. 2 slot over his previous four games.

Tampa Bay star Evan Longoria is 2 for 8 with four strikeouts in this series after sitting out his third straight game in the opener due to plantar fasciitis in his right foot. He has served as the designated hitter in this series, and it's not clear when he will return to third base.

"We'll just have to wait to get him on the field, but we have him as a DH we'll take it,'' manager Joe Maddon said.

Tampa Bay will start right-hander Chris Archer (2-3, 4.40), who said that his changeup wasn't effective Saturday when he gave up three runs over five innings and did not receive a decision in a 4-3 win over Detroit.

Archer, making his 11th career start, has never faced the Astros. Maddon believes the 24-year-old has a bright future.

"He's got the stuff to be a really high-end starter," Maddon told the Rays' official website. "He's got a great fastball, slider, changeup. He's got everything he needs."

Former Rays slugger Carlos Pena went 0 for 3 for Houston on Wednesday in his return to the lineup after missing four games following the drowning death of his nephew.

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