HOUSTON (AP) Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon peered at the box score through his thick, black-framed eyeglasses after Friday night’s game against the Houston Astros and kept repeating one word.
”Wow,” Maddon said three times as he read off his pitcher’s strikeout totals. ”I didn’t realize we had that many.”
Alex Cobb had 11 of the Rays’ season high-tying 16 strikeouts, helping Tampa Bay to its first road win in almost a month, 6-1 over the Astros.
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Ben Zobrist, Matt Joyce and Evan Longoria drove in two runs apiece to break a 10-game road skid dating to May 16. It’s just the third win in the last 17 games overall for the Rays, who have the worst record in the majors at 26-42.
”This was more like we’re supposed to play, like we can play,” Maddon said. ”Got the hits, a couple hits when we needed it.”
The six runs they scored on Friday night matched the total number of runs they’d managed in their previous six games combined.
Cobb (2-4) rebounded from his worst start of the year to allow three hits and one run with a season best in strikeouts in 6 1-3 innings. He gave up 10 hits and seven runs in a season-low 4 1-3 innings in his last outing.
”You go borderline crazy after bad starts,” Cobb said. ”You start running your mechanics through your mind thousands of times and it keeps you up at night sometimes. It feels good to come out and see that your adjustments paid off.”
Joyce put the Rays up with his two-run double in the second and Zobrist, who finished with three hits, extended the lead to 4-1 with a triple that drove in two in the fifth inning. Longoria padded the lead with his bases-loaded two RBI single in the ninth.
Houston rookie Jon Singleton continued his hot start, hitting his fourth homer in his 11th career game. He also homered on Thursday night. But the rest of the Astros couldn’t get anything going as the team managed just three other hits and set a season high for strikeouts.
Houston manager Bo Porter believes that some of his team’s struggles on Friday night could be attributed to second baseman Jose Altuve sitting out. Altuve missed the game after being hit in the hand by a pitch on Thursday night and is day to day.
”Any time you don’t have Jose in your lineup, it’s going to hurt you from the standpoint of he’s arguably our best player and leads Major League Baseball in hits for a reason,” Porter said. ”His presence will be missed any time he’s not in the lineup.”
Collin McHugh (4-4) allowed five hits and four runs in five innings for the loss.
James Loney reached on an error by shortstop Jonathan Villar to start the second inning before a double by Zobrist. Joyce’s double made it 2-0.
Houston’s Chris Carter singled with two outs in the second inning for his first hit that wasn’t a homer since June 3. He had hit five straight homers in that span. Robbie Grossman walked after that but Cobb struck out Marwin Gonzalez to end the threat.
Singleton sent Cobb’s first pitch of the fourth inning opposite field into the Crawford Boxes in left field to cut the lead to 2-1.
Cobb walked Matt Dominguez with one out in that inning before he got rolling, retiring the next eight, including striking out the side in the sixth inning. He also struck out the first three batters of the game.
The Astros didn’t get another hit until Dominguez singled to start the seventh. Carter followed by knocking a ball about 425 feet to straightaway center field, but Jennings raced up the hill to grab it.
Brad Boxberger replaced Cobb and struck out two batters in 2-3 innings and Joel Peralta fanned the side in the eighth.
Jennings doubled with no outs in the fifth before Loney drew a two-out walk. Zobrist made it 4-1 with his triple to center field which snapped an 0 for 26 streak with runners in scoring position.
NOTES: Houston recalled RHP Josh Zeid from Triple-A Oklahoma City and optioned LHP Rudy Owens to the minor league team before the game. … Tampa Bay RHP Jeremy Hellickson (elbow) made his second rehab start Thursday for Triple-A Durham. He allowed six hits and four runs in 2 1-3 innings. Maddon said he isn’t as concerned about the results as he is how he’s feeling. He could rejoin the rotation at the end of the month. … The series continues on Saturday when Tampa Bay’s Chris Archer opposes Jarred Cosart.