Rays rally to avenge streak-ending loss to Astros

Bob Bellone, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Rays returned to form less than a day after the Houston Astros snapped their eight-game winning streak, rallying from a three-run deficit for a 4-3 victory Thursday at Tropicana Field.
Designated hitter Luke Scott went 2-for-4 with a home run and three runs batted in for the Rays, who have won all but two of their last 15 games and improved to 8-1 on their homestand.
Tampa Bay took the lead for good in the sixth inning. Wil Myers hit a two-out single off relief pitcher Lucas Harrell (5-10), stole second base and scored the go-ahead run on a hit by Scott.
Brett Wallace had put Houston up 3-0 with a two-run homer off right-hander Roberto Hernandez in the first inning. J.D. Martinez delivered the first run on a fielder's choice.
The Rays broke through against Astros starter Dallas Keuchel with a pair of runs in the fifth inning. Myers led off with a single, and Scott followed with his eighth homer of the season. Tampa Bay drew even when Yunel Escobar hit a two-out double, stole third and scored on a squeeze bunt by Desmond Jennings.
Jennings surprised even his own team with the decision to push the ball up the right side.
"The opportunity just presented itself and I went with it," he said.
Keuchel, who surrendered five earned runs in 4 2/3 innings in a 12-0 loss to the Rays at Minute Maid Park on July 1, left after retiring leadoff batter Ben Zobrist in the sixth inning. He allowed six hits, struck out three batters and walked none.
Astros manager Bo Porter was asked why he removed Keuchel from the game.
"I think it was two-fold," he said. "One, the quality of their at-bats seemed to get better real fast. And then we put Harrell down in the bullpen with the notion that we're going to make sure he's built up with the possibility of going back into the rotation. And I saw that as an opportunity for him to not only get in the game at a good point in their lineup, facing two of their better righties, but also an opportunity to give us extended innings through the rest of the game."
Keuchel was not thrilled about being lifted with unfinished business on the mound.
"That's just my mentality," he said. "I thought I deserved it. But it's his decision, so it is what it is."
Hernandez (5-10) responded well to his shaky start, allowing only two hits over the next five innings. He departed after six to extend a Tampa Bay record for consecutive quality starts to 14. Hernandez improved to 4-4 at home, in stark contrast to his 1-6 record on the road.
"Everybody knows I had a lot of losing, but I feel well," he said. "I've been pitching well."
Said Rays manager Joe Maddon: "Obviously, he got better. I thought his last inning might have been his best. His fastball actually got better. He just was assertive. He did not want to come out of that game."
Fernando Rodney pitched a perfect ninth inning for his 13th consecutive save and 22nd overall.
NOTES: Scott has hit in nine consecutive games. ... Zobrist and Escobar extended errorless streaks at their respective positions to 51 games apiece. ... Houston signed 2B Jose Altuve to a four-year extension through 2017 and holds options for the following two seasons. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. ... The Astros activated OF Justin Maxwell from the seven-day disabled list. ... The Rays have won nine of their last 11 matchups with the Astros after losing six of the first seven games in the all-time series. ... Houston has visited Tampa Bay only once before, taking two of three games from the World Series-bound Rays in 2008. ... Bo Porter hit two home runs in three major-league seasons. The former outfielder belted his first in an Oakland uniform against Tampa Bay at Tropicana Field in 2000.

What to Read Next