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Bats buckle under early deficit; result in Astros 5th straight loss

Astros drop 5th straight today. Struggle to do what it takes to wins games: Score runs.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

ST. PETERSBURG, Fl. - Late Texas football coach, Darryl K. Royal once said, "You never lose a game if the opponent doesn't score." And wow are the Astros opponents going by that of late. The Astros were held under 2 runs for their 5th straight game today, they were also dealt, with no surprise, their 5th straight loss today. The Astros sent out ace Dallas Keuchel to the mound today to end their, what was, a 4 game skid. It didn't happen. The Rays answered with returning Jake Odorizzi, he returned at just the right time. He threw 5 2/3 scoreless innings allowing 2 hits, 3 walks and striking out 5. Keuchel, who didn't pitch bad, but certainly didn't have his premium stuff allowed 3 runs, 7 hits in 7 innings of work.

After a flawless first by both pitchers, the Astros' Keuchel ran into some trouble in the 2nd. Keuchel gave up a leadoff single which quickly looked like it was going to go by the wayside before Asdrubal Cabrera came up and had something to say. Cabrera doubled to center and put runners on second and third for Jake Elmore. Elmore's at-bat turned out to be the difference in the game. With Elmore at the plate and a 2-2 count against him, he took a pitch on the first base side of the plate, Keuchel, and Elmore for that matter, thought Keuchel had escaped, had thrown strike 3 and escaped the inning. But to everyones surprise, home plate umpire Greg Gibson called it a ball and put Elmore back in the box for another shot. Elmore continued the at-bat and drew a 2-out walk and kept the inning going for Rene Rivera. Rivera converted on the opportunity and sent a shot to right fielder Preston Tucker and drove in two while also sending Elmore to second. Elmore scored on a single from Brandon Guyer which made it 3-0.

The Astros didn't know it but when that first run crossed the plate - the game was all but over. The Astros will try to salvage 1 game from Tampa Bay before the All-Star break. The Astros plan on sending hometown kid Lance McCullers Jr. to the mound. McCullers will enter tomorrows game with a sub 3 ERA and a 4-2 record. McCullers will also have multiple members of his family in attendance tomorrow. Emotions could run high. How will he respond? We'll see. The Rays on the other hand will counter with 2013 All-Star Matt Moore. Moore has not picked up a decision in his two starts in 2015 but is carrying a lot of baggage with him. He carries an 8.00 ERA into tomorrows game - giving the Astros their best chance to pick up a win they have had in a while. The Astros bats will need to break out tomorrow for the hometown kid. If not, the Astros will leave St. Pete with a 6 game skid.