Houston's celebration continues to wait

Astros lose lopsided game to Rays as magic number stalls again

Astros' Jose Altuve
It was a rough night for the Astros against the Rays on Wednesday night. Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

It was a rough night for the Astros against the Rays on Wednesday night.

With a walk-off win in the ninth in the series opener to put them a win or Mariners loss away from clinching the AL West, Houston sought to get the magic number to 0 on their terms with a win to secure the series Tuesday night. That plan fell apart early, though, as Tampa Bay would jump out to an early lead and hold it to even the series.

Final Score: Rays 7, Astros 0.

Astros' Record: 92-66, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Drew Rasmussen (4-1)

Losing Pitcher: Luis Garcia (11-8)

Forgettable outing for Garcia

After a scoreless top of the first where he erased a double and a walk, Luis Garcia dealt with a costly error in the top of the second. With two outs, a fly ball to center field went sideways for Jose Siri, who dropped the ball, allowing the Rays to keep the inning alive with a runner on third. They followed that with an RBI single to start the scoring, then a two-run homer to put Tampa Bay in front 3-0.

After those three unearned runs, Garcia rebounded with a solid third and fourth inning, but things went from bad to worse in the fifth. A one-out double and two-out walk set up a three-run homer, doubling the lead to 6-0. Garcia would get the final out of that frame, but that would be it for him: 5.0 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, 2 HR, 84 P.

Astros shutout as magic number stays stuck at one

Meanwhile, Houston's offense had nothing for Tampa Bay's pitching, getting held hitless until a Yuli Gurriel single in the bottom of the fifth, though he would get left stranded. Peter Solomon came in to eat some innings after Garcia, and in the sixth and seventh, he did so without allowing any runs. That changed in the top of the eighth, where a leadoff double would come around to score on a two-out RBI triple to make it a seven-run game.

Solomon would finish the piggyback in the top of the ninth, saving Houston's bullpen from having to use any more arms. The Astros offense went quiet at the plate again in the bottom of the ninth, making the 7-0 score final and leaving them awaiting another Oakland vs. Seattle outcome to see if they will enter Thursday as division champions or still waiting. Tampa Bay's win gives secures them the number one seed in the American League.

Up Next: This series's third and final game will start an hour earlier on Thursday, getting underway at 6:10 PM Central. The Rays have not yet named who will start for them on the mound, but it will be Lance McCullers Jr. (12-5, 3.17 ERA) for Houston.

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Welcome back, Justin! Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images.

Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander will make his season debut Friday night at the Washington Nationals.

Houston manager Joe Espada made the announcement Wednesday.

“Getting him back is huge because it brings a level of confidence to our team, a boost of confidence that we’re going to get someone who’s been an MVP, a Cy Young (winner) on the mound,” Espada said. “It's (good) for the morale and to get stuff started and moving in the right direction.”

The three-time Cy Young Award winner opened the season on the injured list with inflammation in his right shoulder. He made two rehabilitation starts, the first for Triple-A Sugar Land on April 7 before Saturday’s start for Double-A Corpus Christi.

Espada wouldn't say how many pitches the 41-year-old would be limited to but said they'll keep an eye on his workload.

“We've got to be careful how hard we push him early,” Espada said. “I know he’s going to want to go and stay out there and give us an opportunity to win, but we've got to be cautious of how hard we push him early in the season.”

Verlander wasn’t thrilled with the results in his rehabilitation starts, but he said Monday that those games were valuable in getting him prepared to come off the IL.

He allowed seven hits and six runs — five earned — in four innings against Frisco on Saturday. He struck out three, walked one and threw 51 of 77 pitches for strikes.

Verlander allowed six earned runs and struck out six while pitching into the fourth inning for Sugar Land on April 7.

The Astros have gotten off to a tough start with Verlander and fellow starters Framber Valdez and José Urquidy on the injured list. They enter Wednesday's games last in the AL West with a 6-13 record.

Espada hopes Verlander can be the boost the team needs to get on track.

“It’s good to get him back in the rotation,” Espada said. “With what he means to this club just to get him back on track, getting some innings from him (to) build our rotation with the pieces that we need to move forward is exciting.”

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