ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Hunter Brown combined with two relievers on a two-hitter and the Houston Astros shut out the major league-best Tampa Bay Rays for the second straight game, 1-0 on Wednesday night.
Brown (3-0) had a career-high eight strikeouts and walked two in his seven innings. Hector Neris pitched a perfect eighth and Ryan Pressly worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his second save.
“He had command of his fastball, his breaking stuff, and had a good change up against some tough lefties, a tough lineup,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said of Brown.
The 24-year-old, who made his big league debut last Sept. 5, became the first pitcher this season to have three starts of at least seven innings and no earned runs.
“Defense was great,” Brown said. “Obviously tonight one run was all we needed. It was a good game.”
Houston went 5-1 on a six-game trip that included a three-game sweep at Atlanta.
The Astros had snapped the Rays’ 14-game home winning streak to start the season, the best in MLB since 1901, with Tuesday night’s 5-0 win. Luis Garcia and three relievers limited the Rays (20-5), who still lead the majors in scoring with 157 runs, to five hits Tuesday.
“To go out and there and score nine every night, it’s just not going to happen,” Rays slugger Brandon Lowe said.
The Rays’ only hits in Wednesday’s game — which took 2 hours, 7 minutes — were singles by ninth-place hitter Manuel Margot against Brown in the third and sixth innings.
“I’ve never seen a team go 162-0,” Margot said through a translator. “So, it’s just some of the things that happen in his game.”
Alex Bregman was credited with an RBI when Rays shortstop Wander Franco was charged with an error for misplaying a potential inning-ending double-play grounder with runners on the corners in the first. Jeremy Peña singled and advanced to third on a pair of wild pitches by opener Calvin Faucher (0-1) before scoring.
Astros second baseman Mauricio Dubón extended his hitting streak to 20 games with a fifth-inning single off Josh Fleming. It’s the longest by a Houston player since Hunter Pence’s 23-game run in 2011.
“The guys loved it,” Baker said. “They’re all pulling for him. Take it all the way to 56.”
Yankees great Joe DiMaggio had a major league-record 56-game hitting streak in 1949.
Fleming went six scoreless innings, and the Rays held the Astros to five hits.
Fred McGriff, who will enter the Hall of Fame in July, was at the game and spent batting practice talking with Baker.
Brown has not allowed a homer in the majors over 50 2/3 innings. … Houston slugger José Abreu is homerless in his last 149 at-bats, dating to last September 13. … Lowe is is 0 for 15, including 10 strikeouts, in his last four games.
RHP Zack Burdi, who was taken in the first round of the 2016 draft by Chicago White Sox but has seen his career derailed by injuries, struck out two and walked one in a scoreless ninth for the Rays. It was first big league game since Sept. 6, 2021 with Baltimore.
Astros: Baker said the status of OF Yordan Alvarez (neck discomfort), who missed his third straight game, should be updated Friday. Baker remains hopeful that Alvarez can avoid going on the injured list.
Rays: Reliever Ryan Thompson (right lat strain) could be back Friday.
Astros: LHP Framber Valdez (2-2) and Philadelphia RHP Aaron Nola (1-2) are the starting pitchers Friday night in Houston when teams meet for the first time since last year’s World Series.
Rays: LHP Shane McClanahan (4-0) and Chicago White Sox RHP Dylan Cease (2-0) take the mound Thursday night. Tampa Bay swept Chicago in a three-game series last weekend.
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