The Tampa Bay Rays have only one game remaining in their brutal 8-game road trip. Thursday night’s game in Houston will determine whether they break even or finish at 3-5.
On Sunday morning they were looking at a disaster following back-to-back walk-off losses in Yankee Stadium. A loss would send them to Houston to face the Astros on a four-game losing streak. The Astros sported a record 10 games better than any other in the American League.
But Tampa Bay avoided a four-game sweep with a 5-3 win they desperately needed. They arrived in Houston quietly telling themselves that splitting the four games in Minute Maid Park would be acceptable.
After the last two nights, they no longer hope to split the series.
Things started badly enough, losing by a touchdown on Monday. The Rays again bounced back, likely saving their season from spiraling out of control, with consecutive wins on Tuesday and Wednesday. Tuesday’s game featured Evan Longoria hitting for the cycle.
Houston has played without two of their offensive stalwarts, All-Stars Carlos Correa and George Springer. They will get no sympathy from the Rays, or any other team that deals with injuries throughout any season.
Rookie Austin Pruitt, a Houston native, stifled the Astros on Wednesday. Dallas Keuchel, the Astros ace of their rotation, suffered his first loss of the season.
“Another good win. Austin Pruitt was awesome,” said Rays’ manager Kevin Cash. “He was excited to pitch here, and all the talk about it. But to go out and perform had to have been pretty special for him.”
While Keuchel suffered his first loss on Wednesday, the Rays’ Blake Snell is still seeking his first win of the season tonight. He will be opposed by the Astros’ Collin McHugh, who also seeks his first win after spending most of the season on the disabled list. Snell has one career road win.
“Yeah, we’re going to get rid of (the zero) soon,” Snell said on Rays.com. “I just have to keep getting deeper and give our team the best chance to win.”
The Rays currently stand at 56-63 and are three and a half games behind the division-leading Red Sox. They are almost halfway through a 17-game stretch against teams that are either leading their division or in second place. The remaining 9 against Milwaukee, Boston and Cleveland will all be played at Tropicana Field.
After tonight’s game, 15 of the next 19 will be played at home, where the Rays are 29-23. They are 27-30 on the road.