Astros can't hold early lead, fall 4-3 to Rays

Justin Maxwell was 1-for-3 with a double in his return to a struggling Astros lineup. - USA TODAY Sports

For the second day in a row the Astros struck early against Tampa Bay, but this time the pitching staff can't hold on. Brett Wallace stays hot, Dallas Keuchel battles and Lucas Harrell receives his first loss in relief this season.

On Friday night, the Astros scored two runs in the first inning on four hits. On Saturday afternoon, they banged out four knocks once again in the opening frame - this time scoring three runs. On Friday, the Astros got an unbelievable performance from Jarred Cosart to record a 2-1 win, but on Saturday, the combination of Dallas Keuchel and Lucas Harrell could not hold the lead.

Surprising leadoff man Carlos Pena got things started against Tampa Bay's Roberto Hernandez in the first with a single. Jose Altuve and his brand new contract extension then grounded into a fielder's choice, which was followed Jason Castro's 25th double of the season to put runners on second and third with one out. J.D. Martinez followed with an RBI ground out to score Altuve, and Brett Wallace followed with a mammoth home run, his fourth of the year, to right field to give Houston a 3-0 lead.

Justin Maxwell, in his first game back from a concussion, doubled to keep things going, but Marc Krauss was called out on strikes to end the inning. The Astros only recorded two more hits, Castro and Altuve singles (Altuve was then picked off) and a Pena walk in the next eight innings in the loss. The last 12 Astros' batters were retired in order.

Keuchel started strong by retiring 12 of the first 13 batters he faced, but ran into trouble in the fifth quickly. Wil Myers singled to start the inning and four pitches later it was a one-run game as former Astro Luke Scott laced a hanging slider over the fence in right-center field. Keuchel got the next two outs but then allowed Yunel Escobar to double. Escobar stole third before the batter Desmond Jennings caught the Astros completely off-guard with a bunt on a 3-1 pitch that allowed Escobar to score easily.

Keuchel, who threw only 80 pitches, was lifted after getting one out in the sixth inning in favor of Harrell, who got the second out of the inning. But Wil Myers followed with a single and his second stolen base of the year to set up Scott again. Scott delivered once more by reaching to the outer half of the plate and pulling a changeup into right field for a RBI single to take the lead that the Rays would hold.

The loss was the Astros 60th on the season, and their eighth defeat in July already. The Astros will try to secure their first series win on Sunday since taking two of three from the Brewers on June 18-20 by sending Erik Bedard to the mound.


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