HOUSTON (AP) — The Houston Astros relied on their powerful offense to win 12 straight games.
On Tuesday night that offense went cold, and their streak ended with a 2-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Astros went 1 for 6 with runners in scoring position to come up one victory shy of setting the franchise record for longest winning streak in franchise history. After averaging more than seven runs in their last 12 games, Houston managed just five singles to end a stretch of 34 straight games with at least one extra-base hit.
C.J. Cron homered early and Wilson Ramos hit a tiebreaking RBI single in the eighth inning to lift the Rays to the victory.
Blake Snell (9-4) allowed just three hits and one run in seven innings, but had to pitch around a career-high seven walks for his fifth straight win. Sergio Romo pitched for the third straight game, taking over with one out in the ninth and allowing one hit for his third save a night after blowing the save in Houston’s 5-4 win.
“We didn’t hit enough and we were shut down by a pretty good pitcher,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “We kept putting up pretty decent at-bats, but that big hit just eluded us again. We kept fighting until the end but just didn’t have enough offense.”
Matt Duffy doubled to start the eighth and advanced to third on a groundout by Jake Bauers. The Rays took a 2-1 lead when the single by Ramos sailed just over the head of a leaping Yuli Gurriel and into left field to allow Duffy to score.
Cron snapped a career-long 0 for 23 slump with a solo homer with one out in the second inning to give Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead. It was the first hit since June 12 for Cron, who struck out 18 times during his hitless streak.
The Rays have struggled to win close games this season and had lost seven of their last eight games decided by one run before Tuesday’s win.
“Things kind of went our way,” manager Kevin Cash said. “It’s amazing how those pop up in all those games but it’s nice to pull one out where there wasn’t any mistakes. The walks are the only thing that you’d like to have back but you’ll take the performance.”
Justin Verlander yielded six hits and one run while fanning 10 in 6 2/3 innings.
“It was a pretty good day for me, but it was a pretty good day for the other guy, too,” Verlander said. “Classic pitchers’ duel. I wish we could’ve come out on top, but … it happens.”
Hector Rondon (1-2) took the loss by allowing two hits and one run in one inning.
The Astros had plenty of opportunities to score, but came up short again and again. They loaded the bases with one out in the first inning, but Carlos Gomez caught a fly ball hit by Evan Gattis and his throw home was in time to leave George Springer out at home to end the inning.
Springer was on second base with one out in the third inning when Bregman singled to send him home and tie it at 1-1. Bregman tried to stretch the hit into a double, but Gomez made a perfect throw from right field to leave him out at second.
Snell struck out the side in the fourth, capped by a three-pitch strikeout of Marwin Gonzalez that led to his ejection. Gonzalez argued with home plate umpire Pat Hoberg before throwing his bat and helmet and being tossed. He kept barking at Hoberg after the ejection and continued yelling at him until third base coach Gary Pettis pulled him away and pushed him toward the dugout.
Snell walked Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa with no outs in the sixth. But Gurriel grounded into a double play and Snell retired Tony Kemp after intentionally walking Gattis to leave Houston empty-handed.
Adeiny Hechavarria doubled with two outs in the seventh inning to chase Verlander. Hector Rondon took over and retired Kevin Kiermaier to end the inning. Kiermaier went 0 for 5 in his return after sitting out since April 15 after tearing a ligament in his right thumb which required surgery.
The Astros had a runner on first base with two outs in the seventh when Springer hit a long fly ball to right-center that Kiermaier nabbed as he leapt on the warning track before crashing into the wall of the bullpen.
Astros: RHP Joe Smith (right elbow inflammation) felt good after playing catch on Tuesday but likely won’t return from the disabled list until Houston’s next homestand, which begins on July 5.
TOP OF THE HEAP
Houston second baseman Jose Altuve led all players in fan voting for the All-Star game with 1,572,101 votes in the second update on voting released on Tuesday. The 2017 AL MVP leads the majors in hits (102) and average (.342) and was the first player to reach 100 hits this season.
“I think it’s well-deserved for someone who represents our game in exceptional fashion,” Hinch said. “The voters are getting it right. He’s every bit what’s right about baseball. I’m happy he’s getting the recognition he deserves … he’s as perfect of a player as there is.”
Tampa Bay’s Nathan Eovaldi (8-4, 2.58 ERA) opposes Houston’s Charlie Morton (8-1, 2.94) in the series finale on Wednesday night. Eovaldi, who grew up in suburban Houston, is 1-0 with a 2.52 ERA in four career starts against the Astros. Morton struck out nine in six innings of a win over Kansas City in his last start.
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