Rays hand Astros third straight loss
Liriano ineffective in Astros debut

L is for Liriano
(c) Associated Press

Sloppy defense and a bullpen meltdown resulted in a 5-3 loss to the Rays Thursday night. Collin McHugh pitched well enough to win but, in what was almost a carbon copy of his previous start, factors beyond Collin's control kept him from getting his first win of the year.

Making only his third start of the season after being slowed by arm troubles since February, McHugh topped the 100 pitch mark and delivered six strong innings for the first-place Astros. Collin struck out six while walking one and allowing two runs on five hits. Only one of the runs was earned and it came on a home run by Steven Souza after it looked like McHugh had him struck out.

The Astros got first inning doubles from Alex Bregman and Yuli Gurriel to take a 1-0 lead early. The Rays tied it up in the second thanks in part to a catcher's interference and a throwing error.

Jose Altuve put the Astros back on top in the third with a home run to right-center off Rays starter Blake Snell. The Astros chased Snell from the game in the fifth when Bregman's single scored Jake Marisnick extending Houston's lead to 3-1.

Brad Boxberger replaced Snell on the mound and picked up the victory by retiring all five batters he faced, including a double-play grounder and three strikeouts. Sergio Romo, Tommy Hunter, and Alex Colome followed out of the Tampa Bay bullpen and were equally as effective, keeping the Astros off the scoreboard for the final three innings.

Francisco Liriano made his Astros debut in the seventh in relief of McHugh. After getting the first batter he faced to fly out to rightfield, the newest Astro gave up a single and a walk and was replaced on the bump by Chris Devenski. Devo uncorked a wild pitch before Evan Longoria hit a ground ball that got past Bregman for an error and plated the tying run.

Devenski struck out Astro killer Logan Morrison for out number two but Souza delivered a 2-run double to make it 5-3 and pin the loss on Liriano. Tampa's third straight win at Minute Maid Park wrapped up the season series between the two clubs with the Rays coming out on top four games to three.

The Astros have now lost six of their last eight games and look to break out of their worst slump of the season when the Toronto Blue Jays come calling Friday night. Brad Peacock gets the start for the Astros against 32-year old rookie right-hander Cesar Valdez.

- Greg Thurston