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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