ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) Erasmo Ramirez supported his strong pitching with a key defensive play in the second inning.
Ramirez pitched six innings of four-hit ball and likely saved two runs when he backed up third base and retrieved a wild throw from center fielder Kevin Kiermaier in the Tampa Bay Rays' 3-1 victory over the Houston Astros on Friday night.
''I just used instinct,'' said Ramirez, who won for the sixth time in seven starts and helped the Rays snap a four-game losing streak. ''It was a good time to back up the bases. If the ball bounces into the stands, they're both going to score.''
Ramirez had given up a solo homer to Colby Rasmus in the inning and then walked Cris Carter. When Jason Castro followed with a single, Kiermaier threw wildly over third base as both runners moved up.
''That ended up being a huge play because definitely if he's not there, that's another run,'' Rays manager Kevin Cash said.
Ramirez (8-3) struck out Jake Marisnick to end the threat and the Astros never scored again, losing for the sixth time in seven games.
Relievers Jake McGee, Kevin Jepsen and Brad Boxberger helped Ramirez limit the Astros to two runners over the final seven innings. Boxberger got the last three outs for his 21st save.
''It's good when all three of us throw because usually when all three of us throw, we're winning games,'' said McGee, who had not pitched in a week. The left-hander's 1 1/3 innings marked his longest appearance since last August 24 and his 16th straight scoreless appearance.
The Astros have scored only four runs while losing four straight.
''We've got to find a way to get out of this,'' Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. ''Our starters are throwing the ball well enough to have better outcomes for them. We'll figure it out. . . It can be a cruel league sometimes when you're having a tough time scoring.''
Brandon Guyer homered in the seventh for the Rays, who have won only twice in their last 13 games. It was his third homer of the season and his first since May 8.
Ramirez struck out five in his eighth straight start giving up two runs or fewer.
Houston starter Collin McHugh (9-5) retired 13 straight batters before Rene Rivera opened the sixth with a single and John Jaso followed with a double. David DeJesus and Evan Longoria had run-scoring grounders to give the Rays a 2-1 lead.
McHugh gave up three runs on four hits in seven innings, striking out six.
Astros: RHP Chad Qualls (pinched neck nerve) was reinstated from the 15-day DL and LHP Brett Oberholtzer was optioned to Triple-A Fresno. ... INF Jed Lowrie (torn right thumb ligament) is ''swinging at an intensity of about 60 to 70 percent'' and taking ground balls, according to manager A.J. Hinch.
Rays: RF Steven Souza Jr. (cut right finger) is set to take dry swings Saturday and might return when eligible to come off the 15-day DL July 21.
Astros: LHP Dallas Keuchel (11-3) looks to become the AL's first 12-game winner. He would be the first Astros pitcher to have 12 victories prior to the All-Star break since Roy Oswalt (12-7) in 2005.
Rays: RHP Jake Odorizzi (4-5) will pitch for the first time since leaving a start June 5 with a strained left oblique. . . . The Rays optioned RHP Andrew Bellatti to open a roster spot for Odorizzi.