For a little while in today's game, it looked like the Rays, after their recent surge, were going to lose today's game to and drop the critical the home series. But thanks to some stellar relief pitching and a clutch home run by Luke Scott, the Rays narrowly escaped defeat.
Following in the footsteps of yesterday's starter David Price, Roberto Hernandez ran into some early trouble, sending the Rays into a 3-0 hole before they even came up to bat. Carlos Pena, batting leadoff for the Astros, led the game off with a line drive single to Desmond Jennings. After a force out by Jose Altuve, Jason Castro doubled to right field. A groundout scored the runner on third and brought the Astros first baseman, Brett Wallace, to the plate. He deposited a poorly located changeup in the right field stands, giving the Astros a 3-0 lead. Though Justin Maxwell followed the home run with a double, Hernandez struck out Marc Krauss to end the threat.
Following yesterday's pattern, the Rays offense looked helpless early on. Dallas Keuchal retired the first ten Rays hitters by mixing up his pitches and keeping Rays hitters off balance. Sean Rodriguez became the first Rays batter to reach base with a single in the fourth inning, but the Rays failed to make anything out of it.
Meanwhile, Hernandez was settling into a bit of a groove, putting zeros on the board and limiting the opposition to three base runners after the first inning. He finished the day with 6.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 1 BB, and 6 Ks.
In the fifth inning, the Rays mounted their rally. Wil Myers started the inning with a single to left field. The hot Luke Scott launched a home run to right field; he took advantage of a breaking ball the caught far too much of the plate. James Loney and Jose Molina both grounded out, and it looked like the inning was over. However, Yunel Escobar ripped a double to the gap in left center. With Desmond Jennings at the plate, Yunel Escobar took off for third and successfully stole the base. Like Brain Anderson noted, it was a questionable decision with a positive result. Jennings took advantage of the situation, sending a bunt down the first base line that he successfully ran out, tying the game at three apiece.
In the bottom of the sixth innings, Wil Myers and Luke Scott once again pieced together a rally. With two outs, Myers hammered a single to left field and promptly stole second base. Luke Scott once again ripped an offspeed pitch to right field, this one for a hard single that scored Myers. James Loney flew out to end the inning.
With the Rays offense failing to push across any runs in the seventh or eighth innings, the Rays needed their relievers to hang onto the lead. In a way reminiscent of last year, Jake McGee, Joel Peralta, and Fernando Rodney closed out the game in dominant form, allowing no runners to reach base and striking out four batters.
The Rays finish this three game series tomorrow at 1:40 PM.