Houston has a hot night at the plate

Astros power past Rays in series opener

Houston started this series against the Rays hot at the plate. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Despite a loss to end the recent homestand, the Astros were still riding the momentum of a 6-2 record over their last eight games heading into this road trip and three-game series with the Rays at Tropicana Field. They would back Lance McCullers Jr., who had a great night on the mound, with plenty of runs to grab the win in the opener Friday night.

Final Score: Astros 9, Rays 2

Astros' Record: 14-12, second in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (2-1)

Losing Pitcher: Ryan Yarbrough (1-3)

Astros open a big lead early

Houston was able to beat up on Ryan Yarbrough to put up some early runs. They scored one run on three hits in the top of the first with an RBI single by Carlos Correa, setting the tone and grabbing a 1-0 lead. They added three more in the third, two on a home run by Alex Bregman and another on an RBI groundout by Aledmys Diaz.

Martin Maldonado led off the fourth with a triple, then came around to make it a 5-0 game on an RBI single by Michael Brantley. Yarbrough battled back to save his bullpen somewhat, getting through six innings before Tampa Bay would have to dip into their relievers.

McCullers Jr. impresses with seven shutout innings

That gave Lance McCullers Jr. plenty of room to work with on the mound for Houston. He navigated through the first six innings while shutting out the Rays, allowing just three hits and three walks over that span while striking out seven. After his offense gave him another run in the top of the seventh on an RBI single by Diaz, his second RBI of the night, McCullers Jr. would continue on in the seventh, starting the inning at 97 pitches. He would get a quick frame to cap off his impressive night, retiring the Rays 1-2-3 on two more strikeouts. His final line: 7.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 9 K, 111 P.

Astros get a dominant win to start the series

Kent Emanuel, who was electric in his major-league debut in his last appearance where he went 8.2 shutout innings, took over in the eighth out of Houston's bullpen. He worked around a one-out single for a scoreless inning before Houston would tack on more insurance in the top of the ninth on a two-RBI double by Aledmys Diaz and a sac fly by Myles Straw, making it 9-0.

Andre Scrubb, who was activated Friday, made his first appearance of 2021 in the bottom of the ninth with the nine-run lead. He would finish off the win, but not before allowing Tampa Bay's first two runs of the night with a two-out two-RBI single to break up the shutout.

Up Next: The middle game of this three-game set will start at 3:10 PM Central on Saturday. Josh Fleming (1-2, 1.23 ERA) will be on the mound for the Rays, while Jose Urquidy (1-2, 4.67 ERA) will get the start for the Astros.

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Zack Greinke earned his 10th win of the season in Sunday's finale agains the Rangers. Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

With the first two wins of the series under their belt, the Astros entered Sunday looking to take care of business before heading on the road. Despite the Rangers taking the first lead of the day, the Astros responded on offense and defense to erase the deficit to get the victory.

Final Score: Astros 3, Rangers 1

Astros' Record: 61-39, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Zack Greinke (10-3)

Losing Pitcher: Dennis Santana (0-1)

Greinke, with some help, notches a quality start

Zack Greinke was doing well in the early goings of Sunday's finale. Despite allowing back-to-back singles to start the game, he stranded both runners to finish the top of the first. He followed that by erasing two more runners in the second, starting a stretch of eight straight batters which he would retire to make it through one out in the top of the fifth without allowing a run.

Texas finally added a blemish to his day at that point, getting a solo homer to grab their first lead in weeks. Greinke rebounded from it, sitting down the next two batters to finish the frame, then posted a 1-2-3 sixth. He returned for the top of the seventh, but would end his day with a struggle, loading the bases with no outs on a single, hit batter, and walk. That prompted Dusty Baker to bring in Cristian Javier, who saved Greinke's stat line by getting a strikeout and double play to keep the Rangers from scoring. Greinke's line: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 1 HR, 86 P.

Houston grabs the lead

Houston's starter would leave in line for the win, thanks to the work of Cristian Javier, but also some timely offense in the two innings prior. With not much going for them in the first four innings, the Astros tried to take advantage of Chas McCormick being on base in the bottom of the fifth, sending him for a potential hit and run with Abraham Toro swinging.

That turned into two runs, with McCormick able to slow his run as Toro would launch a two-run go-ahead homer to erase the Rangers lead quickly. They extended the lead to two runs in the next inning, with Yordan Alvarez working a walk and then later scoring on an RBI single by Kyle Tucker, making it 3-1.

Astros finish the sweep

After cleaning up the inherited mess in the top of the seventh, Javier remained on the mound in the top of the eighth and made it through a 1-2-3 inning to give him six outs against five batters. With it still a two-run game in the top of the ninth, Ryan Pressly entered for the save opportunity. He notched it, sitting down the Rangers 1-2-3 to finish the sweep, handing Texas their twelfth straight loss.

Up Next: The Astros will head out west for an eight-game road trip starting with a three-game set with the Mariners kicking off at 9:10 PM Central on Monday. In the opener, Luis Garcia (7-5, 2.86 ERA) for Houston is slated to go opposite Darren McCaughan (0-0, 1.80 ERA), who will make his second career appearance and first start for Seattle.

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