Major League Baseball

Astros try for rare season-series win over Rays

RAYS (76-58) AT ASTROS (87-47)
2:10 p.m. ET; ATTSN-SW, MLBN, FS-SUN, MLB.TV

Thanks to a comeback win Wednesday, the Houston Astros will get a chance to complete a three-game sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays when teams meet Thursday afternoon.

Houston rallied from 3-0 and 4-3 deficits to top visiting Tampa Bay 8-6 on Wednesday, leveling the season series at three wins apiece ahead of the last game.

The Astros’ latest victory required 14 strikeouts from right-hander Gerrit Cole, four critical outs from reliever Will Harris and some quality at-bats in the seventh and eighth innings. Add it up, and Houston is in position to claim the season series against Tampa Bay for the first time since 2008.

The Astros are 0-7-1 in the eight season series since and improved to 18-29 overall against Tampa Bay since joining the American League in 2013.

For all the success the Astros have enjoyed over the past five seasons, it hasn’t happened at the Rays’ expense. By clawing out a victory Wednesday, Houston can reverse a trend that has dogged it recently.

“I’d like to talk about it after the game tomorrow,” Astros manager AJ Hinch said. “This is a really tough team to match up with. They’ve got an answer for everything.

“They play really clean baseball. They generally don’t beat themselves. Their pitchers are very similar to ours, where they execute these plans where they think your weaknesses are, so you’ve got to hang in there as long as you can and then get some opportunities.”

Right-hander Zack Greinke (14-4, 2.83 ERA) will start the series finale for the Astros. He is unbeaten since joining Houston at the trade deadline late last month, going 4-0 with a 2.45 ERA over four starts and 25 2/3 innings.

Greinke has worked at least six innings in each of his starts with Houston, and despite allowing 10 hits on Friday against the Los Angeles Angels, he has yet to allow more than two earned runs in any of those appearances. Even so, the one strikeout he recorded against the Angels represented a season low.

Greinke is 4-6 with a 3.08 ERA over 16 career appearances (13 starts) against the Rays but hasn’t faced them since June 7, 2016, when he tossed a three-hit shutout for the Arizona Diamondbacks(+1.5) at Chase Field.

Rays right-hander Andrew Kittredge (1-0, 4.37 ERA) is expected to serve as the opener on Thursday ahead of right-hander Trevor Richards (4-12, 4.30 ERA), according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Kittredge allowed three runs in one inning on Tuesday, his first career appearance against Houston. Richards has yet to pitch against the Astros.

The Rays hope that duo will pitch as well as left-hander Ryan Yarbrough did over six quality innings on Wednesday. While right-hander Charlie Morton is undoubtedly the Rays’ ace, Yarbrough has come on so well of late that his emergence is difficult to disregard.

After giving up three runs on four hits and one walk with five strikeouts against the Astros, Yarbrough is 6-0 with a 1.77 ERA over his past 13 appearances, including five starts. His effectiveness Wednesday allowed Cash an opportunity to set up his bullpen for the finale.

“I thought Yarbrough threw the ball really, really well,” Cash said. “I thought his game plan was really, really good. You don’t make that lineup go quiet for five and six innings like he did without having some good stuff. Mixing and changing speeds, and he did that again (Wednesday).”

–Field Level Media

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