Tampa Bay Rays starter Jake Odorizzi tips his cap to the fans after he was pulled during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Houston Astros, Saturday, July 11, 2015, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Nesius)
Steve Nesius
July 11, 2015

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) The Tampa Bay Rays got a strong outing from Jake Odorizzi and cashed in on a key early call.

Odorizzi won in his first start in five weeks, Rene Rivera drove in two runs and the Rays beat the sliding Houston Astros 3-0 on Saturday.

''Nice to have Odo back,'' Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said.

Odorizzi (5-5) scattered two hits, walked three and struck out five over 5 2-3 innings in his first appearance since straining his left oblique June 5. Brad Boxberger, the fourth Rays reliever, pitched the ninth for his 22nd save to complete a three-hitter.

One call that went the Rays' way in the second led to three runs and a late-game ejection.

Jake Elmore drew a two-out walk off Dallas Keuchel to load the bases after he took a pitch earlier in the at-bat that could have been the third strike. Plate umpire Greg Gibson, though, called it a ball. Rivera then drove in a pair with a single before Brandon Guyer made it 3-0 on another single.

''Everybody in the ballpark thought it was a strike, 2-2 to Elmore,'' Keuchel said. ''That's a key pitch and I've got to have that, and I think he knew he missed it because he kind of opened it up after that.''

But Keuchel also acknowledged that ''obviously I didn't do a good job of letting it go there for the next couple of hitters, and that's what cost me.''

Houston manager A.J. Hinch said the second inning was ''the story of the game.''

''I haven't looked at the video, but it's pretty obvious what we thought of it,'' he said.

Pitching coach Brent Strom was ejected by Gibson during a visit to the mound in the seventh inning.

''It's pretty obvious what happened,'' Hinch said.

Elmore called the pitch borderline but conceded that ''it was too close to take.'' He appeared to take a step toward the dugout before the pitch was called a ball.

''I'm glad he stayed in the box,'' Cash said.

Tampa Bay set a team record with its 11th straight win when the opponent starts a left-hander.

Houston has scored just four runs during a five-game losing streak. The surprising Astros took over first place in the AL West on April 19, but they had their lead dwindle to a half-game over the Los Angeles Angels entering Saturday. The Angels were scheduled to play Seattle on Saturday night.

Keuchel (11-4), who was bidding to become the AL's first 12-game winner, allowed three runs and seven hits in seven innings. It was his 30th consecutive start of six or more innings, which is the majors' longest active streak.

Asdrubal Cabrera scored on Rivera's hit but strained his right hamstring on the play and needed assistance off the field. Elmore moved in from left field to replace Cabrera at shortstop.

Houston loaded the bases with two outs in the fourth but failed to score when Hank Conger fouled out on the first pitch he saw.

The Astros had just five hits in a series-opening 3-1 loss Friday night.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Astros: Hinch said RHP Scott Feldman (right knee) might return next weekend after making two minor league starts.

Rays: RF Steven Souza Jr. (right finger cut) hit off a tee and could return around July 21. ... LHP Drew Smyly (torn labrum) bounced a number of pitches during his latest bullpen session.

SPECIAL SEAT

The Rays dedicated a right-field seat at Tropicana Field during a pregame ceremony that will always remain open in remembrance of prisoners of war and those missing in action.

UP NEXT

Astros: Rookie RHP Lance McCullers (4-2), who went to high school in nearby Tampa, will face the Rays for the first time Sunday.

Rays: LHP Matt Moore, 0-0 with an 8.00 ERA in two starts, looks for his first win since Sept. 29, 2013, on Sunday. The 2013 AL All-Star made two starts in April 2014 before having elbow ligament replacement surgery.

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