HOUSTON — The starting pitcher walked seven over seven otherwise solid innings Tuesday. That seemed weird enough for the Rays. Then the next pitcher they brought in was the one who started Monday's game. Even more bizarre.
And then there was this: The Rays actually winning a one-run game, and by defeating the red-hot defending champ Astros, who had won 12 straight, and started ace Justin Verlander, 2-1.
Obviously, they'll take it.
"Very excited we beat a great starting pitcher in Verlander, best in the league, and were able to get the win," Rays starter Blake Snell said. "Just a great team win."
Snell did most of the heavy lifting, outlasting Verlander in a matchup he was eagerly excited about, walking the seven (one intentional) but allowing only the one run and striking out six in throwing 102 pitches (only 57 for strikes.)
"It was an interesting outing," manager Kevin Cash said, "because the strike zone wasn't the easiest for him, and then he'd pick up early, early outs. … All in all, you're going to take what Blake's performance just was, with one run over seven innings."
Snell's initial analysis was similarly convoluted. He said he frustrated by the walks but "they really didn't bother me at all." The umpire Pat Hoberg called a tight zone but was consistent. That he was "very happy" with the rhythm he had going with catcher Wilson Ramos but displeased with the amount of balls he threw. That he was excited to outlast Verlander, who went 6 2/3, but has to learn to be able to get deeper.
But he raved about the defense behind him and the efforts of the offense to take the early lead and then rally in the eighth for the go-ahead run.
And he repeated over and over, even though he didn't look nor sound it, that he "couldn't be more excited" about the win.
Once Snell left after seven. Cash made some interesting decisions using his bullpen.
For the eighth, he summoned Ryne Stanek, who retired all five Astros he faced as Monday's opener and looked arguably his sharpest, and he zipped through the eighth.
"I'm just a normal reliever until they tell me otherwise and I open a game," Stanek said. "My job is to be ready to throw whenever my name is called. I knew because I was efficient (Monday) it put me in position to come back today."
Lefty Jose Alvarado came on to start the ninth, allowing a single to Evan Gattis and then getting pinch-hitter Jose Altuve to fly out.. Cash then turned to Sergio Romo, who blew the save Monday, though he also had lefty Jonny Venters warming.
This time Romo did the job, striking out Max Stassi, allowing an infield single to Tyler White and then getting Jake Marisnick to pop out.
"Things kind of went our way," Cash said. "We played, there were no mistakes. Talking to (coaches Charlie Montoyo and Rocco Baldelli) and the guys on the bench, it's amazing how those pop up in all those games. It's nice to pull one out where there weren't any mistakes.
The Rays took the lead against Verlander in the second when C.J. Cron, hitless in his last 23 at-bats, delivered his career-high matching 16th home run. The Astros tied it in the third when Snell had one of several spots of trouble, with two singles around a wild pitch and a fielder's choice ground out.
Verlander didn't finish the seventh, striking out 10 while throwing 122 pitches. The Rays (34-39) went back ahead in the eighth. Matt Duffy, who continues to impress, led off with a double, moved to third on a proper rightside grounder by rookie Jake Bauers ("The biggest at-bat of the night," Duffy said) and scored when Wilson Ramos singled over the drawn-in infield.
The Rays had lost a majors-most 19 one-run games, but now they have won 11.
Snell didn't get off to a good start, with an infield single and two walks in the first, but got off unpunished when Carlos Gomez threw home to nail George Springer as he tried to tag on a shallow fly.
Snell allowed a run in the third on a couple of singles around a wild pitch, though Gomez helped out again by throwing out Alex Bregman trying to get to second. And he made a mess again in the sixth by walking the first two, but got a double play grounder and then got out of it.
C Wilson Ramos moved past Yankee Gary Sanchez into the lead for the starting spot on the AL team for the July 17 All-Star Game in Washington, where he played previously and remains a fan favorite. Ramos has 678,159 votes, 59,260 ahead of Sanchez and 276,823 over Houston's Brian McCann, with online voting continuing through July 9. "I'm very excited,'' Ramos said. "I saw the results (Tuesday) … and thinking about the fans voting for me made me feel good. It would be exciting to be back in D.C. for an All-Star Game.'' Plus he has to fulfill a promise to his wife, Yeli, who told him before the season she wanted to go back to D.C. Ramos is looking to become the seventh Rays player (including Evan Longoria twice) in 21 years to be elected by the fans. Double-A Montgomery OF Ryan Boldt, LHP Genesis Cabrera, OF Nathan Lukes, INF Nick Solak and DH Brett Sullivan were chosen for Tuesday's Southern League All-Star Game. … Class A Bowling Green INF Vidal Brujan, OF Moises Gomez, C Ronaldo Hernandez, RHP Riley O'Brien, INF Zach Rutherford and INF Taylor Walls had Midwest League honors.
Two-way McKay sidelined
Touted two-way prospect LHP/1B Brendan McKay is expected to miss about three more weeks after being placed on the DL at advanced Class A Charlotte with what is being called right oblique tightness. The Rays said they are being cautious in handling McKay, who is 2-2, 4.63 in five pitching appearances and hitting .200 with a .644 OPS since being promoted to the Stone Crabs in mid-May.
RHP Nathan Eovaldi grew up and still lives in the Houston area, and thus is looking forward to pitching at home for just the second time in his eight-year big-league career. "It's exciting to me,'' he said. "I'll have friends and family here to watch the game, and the Astros are doing well too on top of that so it's going to be exciting.'' Eovaldi is working to get better bite on his splitter but feels he has pitched better than his 1-2, 4.63 record shows in his four starts since returning from 2016 Tommy John surgery. Eovaldi has been staying at home during this series, but said he stayed away from chores such as cutting the lawn: "It's been raining too much; that's my excuse.''
Number of the day
6 Consecutive games in which Rays batters struck out 10 or more times.
• DH C.J. Cron snapped a career-worst 0-for-23 by hitting his career-high matching 16th homer in the second inning. Cron had hit 16 in each of the past three seasons with the Angels.
• Houston LF Marwin Gonzalez was ejected for disputing a strike three call at the end of the fourth.
• OF Carlos Gomez was again booed heavily by the Astros fans, even more so as he threw out two runners on the bases.
• INF Daniel Robertson (hamstring) went 1-for-2 and was hit by a pitch in a seven-inning rehab game for the Stone Crabs, with plans assuming all is well to be activated Friday.
• LHP Ryan Yarbrough and RHP Wilmer Font are slated to work most of the innings Friday and Saturday vs. the Yankees but Cash said they plan to use openers in both games.
• Cash said it made "probably the most sense" for Rob Refsndyer to be DFA'd to make room for Kevin Kiermaier's return, but it also was "unfortunate" since Refnsyder didn't get consistent playing time. The Rays have seven days to trade, release or pass him through waivers.