Houston's offensive struggles continue

Disastrous first inning leaves Astros in 2-0 ALCS deficit

Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

After an offensive struggle to start the series where they'd muster just one run in a 2-1 Game 1 loss, the Astros made the quick turnaround to start Game 2 on Monday afternoon. If they could manage a win, it would even the series and turn the ALCS into a best-of-five.

They would be unable to even it up, though, losing after another disappointing and frustrating performance in Monday's Game 2. Tampa Bay goes up 2-0 in the series while the Astros are left desperate for a change of momentum to get back in the series. A quick recap of the game:

Final Score: Rays 4, Astros 2.

Series: TB leads 2-0.

Winning Pitcher: Charlie Morton.

Losing Pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr.

Disastrous first inning for Houston

Houston started Game 2 offensively much as they performed in Game 1, doing enough to get into position to score, but coming away empty. George Springer started the game with a single, then moved to third on a one-out single by Michael Brantley, but a tough-luck lineout by Alex Bregman straight at the shortstop and a strikeout by Kyle Tucker would leave both runners where they stood.

Things took an even further downward turn in the bottom of the inning when a two-out single gave Tampa Bay their first baserunner followed by a groundball that should have ended the frame. Instead, a throwing error by Jose Altuve to Yuli Gurriel, who couldn't pick it, extended the inning. That manifested itself immediately as a costly mistake, as Manuel Margot would score both runners and himself on a three-run home run to center.

McCullers Jr. deals, but can only get one run of support

With their gifted 3-0 lead, the Rays got what they needed from Charlie Morton. Despite allowing five hits, he would hold the Astros scoreless as they would continue to strand runners and lack the consistency to string together hits for runs. They would, however, raise Morton's pitch count enough to end his day at five innings. That set up four innings needed by Tampa Bay's bullpen, starting with Peter Fairbanks, who was welcomed by a one-out solo home run by Carlos Correa in the top of the sixth to get Houston on the board.

That was the first run of support for Lance McCullers Jr, who, aside from the bad pitch that resulted in the three-run homer in the first, was spinning a gem for most of the game. McCullers Jr. allowed a single with no outs in the third inning and then retired the next fourteen straight, nine coming on impressive strikeouts. That streak ended with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, when Mike Zunino would make it a three-run game again with a solo shot. McCullers Jr.'s final line: 7.0 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 11 K, 2 HR, 100 P.

Rays go up 2-0 in the series as Houston's rally comes up short

Andre Scrubb would come out of the bullpen to take over for McCullers Jr. in the bottom of the eighth. He recorded a 1-2-3 inning, sending the game to the ninth to give the Astros one last chance to make a comeback. Houston would start a rally, loading the bases with no outs on three-straight singles by the bottom of their order. That brought George Springer to the plate, who would ground into a double play. That brought in a run, but that's as close as the Astros would come, dropping the game 4-2 and falling into a 2-0 deficit in the ALCS.

Up Next: ALCS Game 3 will be a night game, with first pitch scheduled for 7:40 PM Central from Petco Park in San Diego. The Astros have landed on Jose Urquidy to take the mound, while the Rays have not yet named their starter.

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