HOUSTON — Things unraveled for Tampa Bay starter Chris Archer after he missed a catch on an error covering first base in the third inning.
Though Archer lamented the error, he knows he had plenty of opportunities to turn things around after that miscue and simply couldn’t in a 7-3 loss to the Houston Astros on Saturday.
Archer (3-4) was done in after the error by a lack of control in his shortest start this season. He allowed three hits and six runs — one earned — with three walks in three innings.
"I didn’t execute pitches," Archer said. "It had nothing to do with me not making that play at first base. Yeah, I was frustrated. There’s a ton of plays in a game. There were 40 pitches after that where I could have executed."
The right-hander had allowed just three runs over 31 innings spanning his past five starts entering Saturday’s game.
Matt Dominguez broke out of a slump with two hits, including a three-run double in Houston’s big third inning to help the Astros to the victory.
Dominguez was 1 for 12 in the first three games of this homestand before singling in the second inning. The Astros led by one when he cleared the bases with his double in a five-run third inning that made it 5-1.
Rays manager Joe Madden said Archer did not look comfortable on Saturday.
"The slider to Dominguez, that was a big play that goes in the gap," Maddon said. "If he gets out of that, even after they score the one run on the mishap at first base, go ahead and score the one run and let’s just shut it down with two outs. Then they compounded it. That was really the downfall right there."
Before Dominguez’s double, Marwin Gonzalez got things going in the third with a one-out double before advancing to third on a wild pitch. Fowler reached and Gonzalez scored to tie it at 1-1 on the error by Archer with two outs.
Archer slipped and fell onto his stomach while trying to make that catch, and was unable to locate his pitches after that.
"I should have made the play," Archer said. "We are baseball players. I work on my fielding. We work on most plays in spring training countless times. I should have made the play."
He plunked George Springer on the left shoulder and walked Jon Singleton before giving Houston the lead by walking Jason Castro.
Dominguez followed with his double to center field, which hit on the wall just inches shy of the home run line, to make it 5-1. The play was reviewed and upheld.
"You fall behind hitters sometimes," Archer said. "I feel like I should have made better pitches in the third inning when I had two outs."
Archer escaped the inning by striking out Chris Carter.
Jarred Cosart (6-5) allowed nine hits and three runs in seven innings in his longest outing since May 5 for the win.
The Astros got back on track after striking out a season-high 16 times in a 6-1 loss in the opener Friday night.
Dexter Fowler had two RBIs and Marwin Gonzalez, who was filling in for the injured Jose Altuve, had three hits and scored twice.
Altuve missed his second straight game after being hit on the right hand by a pitch on Thursday night.
Evan Longoria homered and drove in all of the runs for the Rays, who have lost 15 of their past 18 games.
Rookie Kevin Kiermaier doubled with one out in the first and scored on a single by Longoria to put Tampa Bay up 1-0.
"I feel good right there," Kiermaier said. "I am not trying to do too much. I am trying to see the ball as early as possible. I had pretty good pitch recognition today. I took advantage of some pretty good pitches to hit."
Alex Presley walked to start the fourth inning and chased Archer. He was replaced by Cesar Ramos, who was greeted with a single by Gonzalez. Ramos struck out Jonathan Villar before Fowler’s two-run double to center field pushed the lead to 7-1.
Desmond Jennings singled with one out in the fifth before Longoria launched his eighth home run this season into the Crawford Boxes in left field to get Tampa Bay within 7-3.
NOTES: The series wraps up on Sunday when Tampa Bay left-hander David Price opposes Brad Peacock. … Kiermaier had two doubles on Saturday to give him 12 extra-base hits in 21 career games, which is the most in Rays history in such a span, surpassing the 11 Delmon Young had in 2007.