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Rays 4, Astros 17: Started From the Top Now We’re Here

A combined eight homers were hit as the Rays were blown out by the Astros.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

August cannot come soon enough for the Tampa Bay Rays.

After entering July with the best record in baseball, the Rays continued their horrific July by embarrassingly losing 17-4 to the Houston Astros. The game remained competitive until the fourth inning when the Astros secured a commanding lead that the Rays could not overcome. With this loss, the Rays’ July record fell to 6-16, keeping them at risk of having the worst record in the majors for the month.

The game began with Taj Bradley as the starting pitcher for the Rays, opposed by Hunter Brown for the Astros. Bradley’s shaky start escalated into a nightmare during the fourth inning when he struggled to secure outs and got pulled with the bases loaded. His replacement, Kevin Kelly, couldn’t curb the Astros’ offense, surrendering a punishing three-run double to Jeremy Pena that catapulted the Astros to a five-run lead.

Hunter Brown, for his part, pitched effectively for the Astros. Only allowing two walks, he contained the Rays’ lineup through six innings, striking out four batters.

Here’s a little closer look at how things got out of hand.

In the top of the first inning, the Rays initially appeared promising. Wander Franco kickstarted the game with a single and then showcased his speed by stealing second base. He capitalized on a throwing error by Astros’ catcher Yainer Diaz to advance to third. However, the Astros’ third baseman Alex Bregman, alert and agile, executed a double play on a pop foul from Brandon Lowe. Bregman launched a quick throw to home plate to tag out Franco, who was attempting to score. The contentious out call was upheld after the Rays challenged it, despite replays suggesting Franco’s hand touched home before being tagged. This sour start foreshadowed the rest of the game for the Rays.

The second inning saw Jose Abreu lead off with a single for the Astros, followed by a pop-out from Chas McCormick. However, Astros’ catcher Yainer Diaz shrugged off his previous throwing error and delivered the first significant blow, a two-run homer off Bradley that flew beyond the reach of a leaping Jose Siri. Despite a couple of strikeouts to wrap up the inning, the Astros had inflicted their damage and taken a 2-0 lead.

Moving into the bottom of the fourth inning, the Astros began their offensive onslaught, with Abreu drawing a walk. McCormick then delivered a sharp line drive to left, advancing Abreu to second. Diaz grounded into a force-out, but the inning continued with another walk, this time issued to Jake Meyers. With the bases loaded, Rays’ manager Kevin Cash decided to replace Bradley with Kelly, hoping to stem the tide, but “band-aids don’t fix bullet holes,” as Taylor Swift said. Jeremy Pena, Astros’ shortstop, drilled a line drive into left field, doubling home McCormick, Diaz, and Meyers. The Astros had broken the game wide open with a 5-0 lead, firmly establishing their momentum.

By the end of the fourth inning, the Rays found themselves facing an insurmountable deficit. The Astros proceeded to pile on 12 more runs from the fifth through the eighth inning, including three home runs off Rene Pinto, who made a position player pitching appearance in the seventh. Despite some late sparks of offense, including home runs from Franco and Paredes, the Rays could not recover from the early and consistent damage inflicted by the Astros.

Tonight’s loss was a disappointment and embarrassment. However, baseball is a marathon, not a sprint. Despite recent setbacks, the Rays remain in a strong position going forward. The beauty of baseball is that there’s always another game.

A series win would be a great way to wash the taste of this loss out. These teams play tomorrow at 2:10 p.m., with Zack Littell opening for the Rays opposite Brandon Bielak for the Astros.