In Houston, Rays still trying to clinch home field

National Sports

Orthodoxy isn’t exactly a calling card of the Tampa Bay Rays, so the decision to lift right-hander Michael Wacha following five hitless innings with just 61 pitches on his ledger wasn’t a surprise Tuesday.

Wacha was long gone by the time the visiting Rays fell 4-3 on a walk-off walk by the Houston Astros on Tuesday. The defeat prevented the Rays from clinching home-field advantage throughout the American League postseason, with the final frame marring what had been an exceptionally well-pitched game.

Tampa Bay and Houston will play the second game of a three-game series Wednesday.

Wacha made his first start since Sept. 15, with a relief stint against the Toronto Blue Jays wedged in between. Those circumstances led to manager Kevin Cash turning to his bullpen with the Rays leading 2-0 in the sixth inning.

“I didn’t put up much of a complaint,” Wacha said. “I’ve never really been that kind of guy. If they wanted me to go back out there, I was willing to go back out there. But the workload leading up to this start didn’t allow me to get deep into this game.”

In the ninth, Cash turned to left-hander Josh Fleming to preserve a one-run lead. Fleming, who had started 11 of his previous 23 appearances, recorded just one out before right-hander JT Chargois was summoned to escape a bases-loaded jam. He proved unable to do so in what might have been an audition for a high-leverage role for the postseason.

“I threw some quality pitches,” Chargois said. “I don’t have a lot of thoughts on it. It didn’t work out, and I gave it everything I had. It was a great baseball game. It didn’t work out.”

Right-hander Drew Rasmussen (3-1, 3.04 ERA) will start for the Rays on Wednesday. In his most recent start, against the Blue Jays on Sept. 21, Rasmussen allowed two runs on four hits and one walk with three strikeouts while logging five innings for a third consecutive start.

In seven starts since joining the rotation on Aug. 12, Rasmussen has posted a 1.69 ERA and a .186 opponents’ batting average. He has never faced Houston.

Right-hander Luis Garcia (11-7, 3.23 ERA) has the starting assignment for the Astros. He worked six scoreless innings in his latest start, against the Los Angeles Angels on Sept. 22. He gave up three hits and three walks, struck out one and did not factor into the decision in the Astros’ 9-5, 12-inning victory.

Over his past nine starts, Garcia is 4-1 with a 2.72 ERA and .649 opponents’ OPS. He will make his first career appearance against the Rays.

The Astros had to claw their way to victory Tuesday, a necessary approach on the heels of a four-game skid. Houston didn’t muster its first hit until there were two outs in the sixth inning, with Alex Bregman slicing the deficit to one run with his 12th homer.

Jose Altuve pulled the Astros even with his 31st home run with one out in the eighth. Randy Arozarena’s 20th homer of the season put the Rays up 3-2 in the top of the ninth, but Chas McCormick and Jason Castro worked bases-loaded walks in the bottom of the ninth against Chargois, doing so on a combined 18 pitches.

“We needed this one,” Altuve said. “We needed to create some momentum … to put those games in the past and start winning.”

–Field Level Media

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