Skip to main content

HOUSTON, Texas — It's pretty clear that the Houston Astros are the best team in the American League, and no one knows that better than the Tampa Bay Rays.

Houston took them down again on Sunday, winning 3-1 this team. It was the fifth loss in six tries for Tampa Bay this season against the Astros, who have now won 104 games and are secured home field advantage throughout the American League playoffs. 

They are the only team in the AL that the Rays haven't beaten more than once this season. Tampa Bay scored just seven runs in six games against Houston. 

All that's secure for the moment for the Rays is a spot in the dance. The Rays, just 4-9 in their past 13 games, have clinched a wild-card spot, and after Sunday's action, they no longer can host the first-round. The Toronto Blue Jays won again, sweeping Boston to lock up the No. 4 seed and home games in the best-of-three series.

Seattle lost to Oakland, so they remain 1 1/2 games ahead of Tampa Bay for the No. 5 spot. The Mariners have four games left with Detroit, and the Rays will play three games in Boston to end the regular season. For the fifth time in six games over a two-week period, the Houston Astros roughed up the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday, winning 3-1 and silencing Tampa Bay hitters once again. Houston, the top seed in the American League playoffs, won the season series 5-1 and allowed just four runs in the five wins over the Rays. No. 5 seed gets Toronto, the No. 6 seed gets No. 3 and AL Central champion Cleveland. 

Jeremy Pena did all the damage for Houston on Sunday. He hit a two-run homer off of Tampa Bay starter Corey Kluber in the first inning, and also drove in another run in the seventh. It was his 21st homer of the season, tied for second among AL rookies.

Kluber (10-10) was fine after that first-inning, allowing just six hits and the two runs over five innings.

Scroll to Continue

Read More

"I felt good," Kluber said. "The first two hitters, a bunt single and then I got ambushed on a pitch that probably got a little more of the plate than I would have liked. But for the most part, I was able to execute pretty well today. Unfortunately, their guy (Luis Garcia) just pitched a little better." 

Garcia was better, earning his 15th win of the season by pitching six innings of one-run ball, allowing only three hits and one walk. Garcia is 7-0 in his last eight starts.  

"He was very good," Astros manager Dusty Baker said of Garcia, who also shut out the Rays on two hits on Sept. 19 in St. Petersburg. "He's using his fastball more and is locating well, which sets up his breaking stuff. The best pitch in baseball is still a well-located fastball. If you locate that, it opens up everything else. He's had a good year."

The Rays got their only run in the second inning when Ji-Man Choi doubled and catcher Christian Bethancourt singled him in. They only had six hits all day. 

"We're just not firing right now," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "But I'm confident the guys will get it going. You certainly have to credit Houston's pitching, but I don't think we're our best version, right now. We've still got time."

Easton McGhee made his major-league debut for the Rays, replacing Kluber and pitching the final three innings. He allowed one run and four hits. He was the 61st player the Rays have used this year, tying a club record set a year ago, and the 37th pitcher. That's one shy of last year's record.

Rays infielder Yandy Diaz didn't play for the second straight day. He has a left shoulder strain, and the Rays want him ready for Friday's playoff opener. The Rays also got some bad news on Sunday when left fielder David Peralta left in the first inning with tightness in his right hip. It's not considered major. Peralta said afterward that he was fine and would be ready for Friday as well. 

The Rays will close out the regular season with three games in Boston. Right-hander Tyler Glasnow will get his second start of the season on Monday after missing more than a year following Tommy John surgery. . He pitched three innings in Cleveland last week in his debut, allowing one run. The Red Sox will start left-hander Rich Hill (8-7, 4.41 ERA), who was a teammate of Glasnow's with the Rays last year.