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  1. Rays

Rays snap skid by routing Kazmir, first-place Astros (w/video)

HOUSTON — Tim Beckham is still relatively young at 25 and inexperienced in the majors, which leads to the more-than-occasional mistakes. Monday night he made two throwing errors at second base and twice made the third out of an inning with a runner in scoring position.

But he also has the talent and ability to dramatically impact a game, and he did that, too, bashing a three-run home run in the first inning that propelled the Rays to a much-needed 9-2 win over the Astros.

After being swept over the weekend by the Rangers, the Rays continued their dominance over the American League West leaders, beating them for the fourth straight time this season to get back to .500 at 59-59.

"We took three tough losses in Arlington, just needed a big win tonight," Beckham said. "When I'm in there, I just want to be productive. I just want to produce any way I can. … There's not too many better feelings in the world than hitting one off the barrel for a homer."

By the end of the night, the Rays had 15 hits, marking the first time they had been in double digits in five straight games since 2012.

Part of the Rays' problem against the Rangers — as it has been for much of August in general — was ineffective starting pitching. But Erasmo Ramirez, buoyed by the early lead, gave them a solid outing, working into the sixth inning to earn his 10th win. Steve Geltz, Brandon Gomes and just-called-up Enny Romero took it from there.

"Erasmo was really good," Rays manager Kevin Cash said.

Having already beaten Scott Kazmir once this season when he was with Oakland, the Rays jumped on their former All-Star for four runs in the first.

It started innocently, with a two-out, shift-beating single by Evan Longoria and a walk by Logan Forsythe. Asdrubal Cabrera blooped a ball that dropped in front of centerfielder Carlos Gomez for one run. Then Beckham blasted an 0-and-2 curveball for a three-run homer, his first homer since May 22 and sixth overall and in 137 at-bats, to make it 4-0.

"He takes some ferocious hacks, and when he connects, the ball goes," Cash said. "Good for him getting us going."

Plus, there was the residual benefit of having Kazmir throw 35 pitches to get through the first inning, which contributed to him lasting only 51/3.

"You just don't get that many opportunities off Scott Kazmir, and when you do, you have to capitalize on them," Cash said. "A lot of good at-bats all around."

Ramirez, whose 102 pitches were his most since June 15 against Washington, gave up a run in the second, though it was the product of a bunt single and a subsequent extremely errant throw by Beckham past first base. Ramirez allowed another in the fourth that was all his, leaving an 0-and-2 pitch to Evan Gattis over too much of the plate, and Gattis knocked it over the rightfield wall.

Another throwing error by Beckham, though with first baseman Daniel Nava contributing, and a two-out walk in the sixth ended Ramirez's night. "We decided he had gone about as far as he could go," Cash said.

On this night, that was good enough.

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