Swept Away: Astros Now 28-51 After 14-10 Loss To Rays

SB Nation Houston's coverage of the Rays-Astros series from June 24-26, 2011

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Astros Hang Tough But Can't Overcome Abhorrent Bullpen In Loss To Rays

Final Score: Tampa Bay 14, Houston 10

Houston, TX (Sports Network) - Evan Longoria hit a pair of homers and drove in five runs, as the Tampa Bay Rays outlasted the Houston Astros, 14-10, to sweep a three-game series.

Longoria went 4-for-6 with three runs scored in a game that featured 18 extra-base hits, 84 official at-bats and 11 pitchers.

B.J. Upton hit a three-run homer and drove in four runs for the Rays, who went 5-1 on a six-game road trip. Upton homered in every game of the series.

J.P. Howell (1-1) got the win despite giving up a solo homer in one inning of work.

Carlos Lee knocked in three runs for the Astros, who have dropped a season- high six in a row and 14 of 16 at home. Jeff Keppinger and Matt Downs homered in defeat.

Wilton Lopez (1-4) allowed four runs on four hits over 2 1/3 innings to suffer the loss.

It didn't take long for the runs to start piling up. Upton continued his impressive showing in the series with a three-run homer to left-center field in the first inning.

Houston got one run back in the home first on Lee's RBI triple to right-center field.

The Astros added two more runs in the second to tie the game. Clint Barmes hit an RBI double, moved to third on a groundout and scored on a wild pitch to make it 3-3.

Upton's RBI groundout in the third gave the Rays a 4-3 edge, but Lee's two-run double in the bottom of the frame put Houston in front.

The back-and-forth battle continued in the fourth, as Ben Zobrist hit an RBI double to make it a 5-5 contest.

But the Astros tacked on two more runs in the home fourth to take the lead back. Michael Bourn hit an RBI single, stole second, moved to third on catcher Kelly Shoppach's throwing error and scored on a Keppinger sacrifice fly.

Following a scoreless fifth, the Rays put two runs on the board in the sixth. Lopez gave up a single to Johnny Damon, who advanced to second on a wild pitch and moved to third on a balk. Longoria stepped to the plate with one out and smacked Lopez's offering over the wall in left to make it 7-7.

Keppinger's solo homer to left off Howell in the seventh gave the Astros an 8-7 edge.

Of course there was more runs to be had, as the Rays scored four times in the eighth. Damon and Zobrist singled off Lopez to put men on first and second with one out. Mark Melancon took over on the mound and got Longoria to go down swinging. Upton walked to load the bases for pinch-hitter Matt Joyce, who hit a two-run double to the right-field corner. Casey Kotchman followed with a two-run single to right to give Tampa Bay an 11-8 lead.

Downs kept Houston in the game with a two-run homer off Joel Peralta in the home eighth.

Longoria put the game out of reach in the ninth. Wade Davis, who pitched seven strong innings for the Rays on Saturday, led off with a pinch-hit single. Davis moved to second on a wild pitch and advanced to third on Damon's base hit. But Davis was thrown out at home when Zobrist hit a grounder to second. Two men were still on base for Longoria, who cleared the wall in left to make it a 14-10 contest.

Game Notes

Rays starter Jeff Niemann gave up five runs on seven hits over three innings. Houston starter J.A. Happ allowed five runs on nine hits over five full frames...The Rays are 8-1 over their last nine games...Houston fell to 3-6 in interleague play this season, while the Rays improved to 9-3...Longoria's homer in the sixth was reviewed. It was the seventh career multi-homer game for Longoria.

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Astros Hope Happ Can Salvage A Win In Series With Rays

(Sports Network) - The Rays have put together a nice run of late thanks to their rotation. Houston native Jeff Niemann hopes to get in on the success this afternoon when Tampa Bay aims to sweep a series against the Astros.

The Rays are 7-1 over their last eight games, due in part to some incredible starting pitching. In those eight contests, their starters have pitched to a 1.41 ERA (9 earned runs, 57 1/3 innings). Rays pitchers have gone 11 straight games without allowing 10-plus hits. That's three contests off the club record, set during the 2008 season.

On Friday night James Shields pitched his sixth complete game of the year. Last night it was Wade Davis who held the Astros in check through seven innings in a 7-2 triumph. That gave Tampa Bay its ninth victory in its last 12 road games.

B.J. Upton, Casey Kotchman and Evan Longoria each drove in two runs last night. Davis (7-5), making the 50th start of his career, gave up one run on five hits over seven innings for the Rays, who have won three in a row and seven of eight overall. Davis also struck out three and walked one en route to winning his third straight start.

"I think I stayed under control better than I have all year throughout the whole game," Davis said.

Hunter Pence and Carlos Lee had an RBI apiece for the Astros, who lost 5-1 in the opener of this series on Friday. The Astros have dropped a season-high five in a row and 13 of 15 at home.

Bud Norris (4-6) allowed three runs on six hits over five full frames to suffer the loss. He also struck out five and walked three.

"He kept working to find his stuff, and his command kind of got him in trouble there with those walks," Astros manager Brad Mills said. "He kept battling through it. It was -- what? -- 95 pitches though five innings, and he wanted to go back out there, but it was a situation [in which] we were down and trying to get some baserunners as well."

Niemann came off the disabled list on Monday and started that night at Milwaukee in the first game of this road trip. He earned an 8-4 win over Chris Narveson, but left after six innings with a 5-0 lead. Prior to that, Niemann was out six weeks with a lower back strain.

This will be Niemann's second career start against the Astros. He won here last year on May 22, 4-2 over Wandy Rodriguez. He's made six career starts in NL parks and the Rays have won all of those games.

Countering on the hill for Houston will be J.A. Happ, who is 0-5 over his last seven starts. The lefty hasn't won since May 14 against the Mets, and he's coming off a horrid road outing against the Rangers on Monday when he allowed eight hits and five earned runs over 2 2/3 innings. This will be his first career appearance against Tampa Bay.

Rays pitchers are 0-for-19 at the plate this season. The most at-bats without a hit in one interleague season by an AL pitching staff is an 0-for-25 by the 2008 Red Sox pitchers.

The Rays, winners in eight of their last nine interleague games, won two of three over the Astros in Houston last season.

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Astros Get Their Heads Kicked In At Home By Rays 7-2

Final Score: Tampa Bay 7, Houston 2

Houston, TX (Sports Network) - B.J. Upton, Casey Kotchman and Evan Longoria each drove in two runs, as the Tampa Bay Rays defeated the Houston Astros, 7-2, in the middle portion of a three-game interleague series.

Wade Davis (7-5), making the 50th start of his career, gave up one run on five hits over seven innings for the Rays, who have won three in a row and seven of eight overall. Davis also struck out three and walked one en route to winning his third straight start.

Hunter Pence and Carlos Lee had an RBI apiece for the Astros, who lost 5-1 in the opener of this series on Friday.

Bud Norris (4-6) allowed three runs on six hits over five full frames to suffer the loss. He also struck out five and walked three.

The Rays scored one run in each of the first three innings to take an early lead. In the first inning, Ben Zobrist worked a one-out walk and came around to score on Longoria's double down the left-field line.

Reid Brignac hit a one-out single during the Rays' next at-bat. Brignac moved up to second on Davis' sacrifice bunt and scored on Johnny Damon's base hit to right. Brignac slid under the tag at home plate to make it a 2-0 game.

Longoria started the third with a walk and Kotchman followed with a single to put men on first and second. Two batters later, Upton hit an RBI single to left for a 3-0 edge.

Houston finally got to Davis in the fourth. Pence worked a two-out walk and crossed the plate on Lee's double to right-center field to make it 3-1.

Upton's solo homer to left off Fernando Abad in the sixth made it a 4-1 contest.

The Astros had a chance to get some runs back in the home sixth, but they left the bases loaded.

Houston scored a run in the eighth to make it a two-run game. Joel Peralta gave up a one-out single to Jeff Keppinger, who scored on Pence's double off the wall in left. Kyle Farnsworth took over on the mound and Lee smacked the ball to the warning track in left field. Sam Fuld dropped the ball to allow Lee to reach base. Matt Downs grounded into a double play to keep it a 4-2 contest.

The Rays tacked on three runs in the ninth to pull away. Fuld doubled Zobrist walked to begin the frame. Longoria followed with an RBI double to left. Sergio Escalona took over on the mound for Enerio Del Rosario and gave up a two-run single to Kotchman.

Farnsworth pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings to record his 16th save of the season.

Game Notes

Astros catcher J.R. Towles left Friday night's game in the top of the third inning due to a cut on his chin caused by a foul tip. The cut required 11 stitches. Towles did not start Saturday's contest but came in a pinch-hitter in the seventh...The Rays (43-34) are nine games over .500 for the first time this season...Houston fell to 3-5 in interleague play this season, while the Rays improved to 8-3...The Astros purchased the contract of catcher Brian Esposito from Triple-A Oklahoma City and optioned pitcher Fernando Rodriguez to the same club...Houston went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and stranded seven...Del Rosario gave up three runs on three hits.

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Bud Norris Hopes To Continue Hot Streak Against Rays

(Sports Network) - Bud Norris is itching for offensive support, even just one run at this point as the Astros have been shut out 1-0 in each of the right- hander's last two starts. Norris will be on the hill tonight when Houston hosts the Tampa Bay Rays in the middle portion of this three-game interleague series.

Norris tossed six scoreless innings with five strikeouts and one walk, but did not receive a decision against the Dodgers on Sunday. He also lost at home to Pittsburgh on June 14, and in his last three outings has given up a total of two earned runs over 21 innings.

The Rays mark the only American League team he has faced in his career. Norris' lone interleague start came on May 23, 2010 when he allowed four earned runs in five innings with 10 strikeouts. He didn't get a decision.

Wade Davis makes the 50th start of his career tonight for the Rays. The righty has won his last two starts, beating Baltimore on the road and most recently limiting the Marlins to a run over six innings on June 17. His current win streak comes on the heels after going a month (and four starts) without a victory.

Davis has struggled with the bottom of the order, as opposing 7-8-9 hitters are batting .343. Meanwhile, hitters 1 through 6 are batting just .251. He's also struggled with the long ball of late, giving up 12 homers in his last eight starts. That followed a stretch of yielding just one round-tripper over his first six starts.

Coming off his first career interleague victory, Davis has never faced the Astros.

Last night, James Shields tossed his major league-leading sixth complete game to give Tampa Bay a 5-1 victory.

Shields (8-4) allowed one run on three hits and a walk while fanning nine in his third straight complete game victory. He also surpassed Joe Kennedy for the club record for complete games in a season. Kennedy threw five in 2002.

"I definitely didn't think it was going to be this many. I thought I was trying to get three or four or something like that," said Shields. "It's unbelievable. This is not how I expected to start but this is exactly how I wanted to start."

Evan Longoria and B.J. Upton hit back-to-back homers as the Rays won for the sixth time in seven games.

Wandy Rodriguez (5-4), who had won his last three starts, allowed five runs on six hits and two walks through six innings. It was his first loss in exactly two months.

Chris Johnson knocked in the lone run for the Astros, losers in four of their last five.

The Astros could be without catcher J.R. Towles. He took a foul ball that bounced off his mask and onto his chin and knocked him out of the game. He had to leave because his chin was bleeding profusely and was replaced by Carlos Corporan behind the dish. Towles received 11 stitches and is listed as day-to- day.

The Rays, winners in seven of their last eight interleague games, won two of three over the Astros in Houston last season.

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Astros No Match For Dominant Shields

Houston, TX (Sports Network) – James Shields tossed his major league-leading sixth complete game to give Tampa Bay a 5-1 victory over Houston in the first of a three-game interleague series.

Shields (8-4) allowed one run on three hits and a walk while fanning nine. He also surpassed Joe Kennedy for the club record for complete games in a season. Kennedy threw five in 2002.

Evan Longoria and B.J. Upton hit back-to-back homers as the Rays won for the sixth time in seven games.

Wandy Rodriguez (5-4), who had won his last three starts, allowed five runs on six hits and two walks through six innings.

Chris Johnson knocked in the lone run for the Astros, losers in four of their last five.

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Astros Vs. Rays: Rodriguez Duels With Shields

(Sports Network) - Right-hander James Shields aims for a third straight superb outing tonight when the Tampa Bay Rays visit Minute Maid Park for the first of three interleague games with the Houston Astros.

A 16th-round pick of the Rays in 2000, Shields has been a staff mainstay for the past several seasons as Tampa Bay has climbed to the upper echelons of the American League.

He won 13 games for the Rays last season while logging 203 1/3 innings and has already pitched 112 2/3 innings through 15 starts in 2011.

His last two starts have been the best of the season, resulting in complete- game wins over Boston and Florida while he's given up just a run on nine hits with three walks and 15 strikeouts.

Shields has never faced the Astros, but is 4-1 in seven road starts.

Houston counters with similarly streaking lefty Wandy Rodriguez, who's won three straight starts and four straight decisions.

The 31-year-old fell to 1-3 on the season with a 4-1 loss at Milwaukee on April 24, but is 4-0 with three no-decisions since while paring his earned run average from 5.40 to 2.88.

His last start came June 18 in Los Angeles against the Dodgers and resulted in a 7-0 win after he gave up seven hits in six scoreless innings.

He blanked Atlanta over six innings a start before on June 13, giving up just two hits in a game the Astros won, 8-3.

Since the late April loss, Rodriguez has allowed just seven runs across 48 innings in seven starts.

He's 0-1 lifetime against Tampa Bay in two starts.

On Wednesday in Milwaukee, after giving up two early runs, David Price silenced hitters to lead Tampa Bay over the Brewers, 6-3, in the rubber match of a three-game series at Miller Park.

Price (8-6) went eight innings, giving up just two runs on five hits while fanning 10. After surrendering the two first-inning runs, Price allowed just three hits and one walk the rest of the way.

He got the win thanks to Elliot Johnson, who hit a three-run homer in the seventh inning. Kelly Shoppach also homered for the Rays, who have won five of their last six games.

In Arlington, pinch-hitter Matt Downs capped a four-run ninth inning with a tie-breaking two-run home run to lead the Astros past the Texas Rangers, 5-3, in the finale of a three-game interleague set.

Carlos Lee and Chris Johnson had doubles while Jason Michaels added a pair of hits for the Astros, who snapped a three-game losing streak.

Mark Melancon (5-1) worked two innings of relief to pick up the win for Houston.

The Rays won two of three over the Astros in Houston last season.

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