Tampa Bay's only winning series in more than three weeks came last weekend in Houston.
Looking to avoid a third straight defeat, the lowly Rays hope to get back on track by continuing their success over the Astros on Thursday night.Tampa Bay (28-45) has won five times in 22 contests, with two of those coming during a three-game set at Houston. Though the Rays have the majors' worst record, they've won 12 of 15 against the Astros (32-41).The Rays scored 13 runs at Houston then followed by totaling 10 in losing two of three at home to Baltimore. They managed five hits and went 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position while being shut out for an AL-leading 11th time, 2-0 on Wednesday. The Rays' 265 runs are the fewest in the majors."We just didn't hit," manager Joe Maddon said. "How many times have I had to say that this year?"Two-time All-Star Ben Zobrist went 1 for 12 with six strikeouts against the Orioles after he was 6 for 12 versus Houston last weekend.Teammate Evan Longoria, meanwhile, is 5 for 16 (.313) with two doubles, a homer and six RBIs in his last four games versus Houston after going 0 for 15 in his previous four against the Astros.Chris Archer (3-4, 3.40 ERA) went 1-0 with a 1.20 ERA in two starts against the Astros last season and tossed a five-hitter during a 5-0 home win July 14, but he allowed six runs -- one earned -- and three hits with three walks in a season-low three innings during a 7-3 loss at Houston on Saturday.Archer, who committed an error while covering first base during the Astros' five-run third inning, gave up three runs in 31 innings while going 1-1 in his previous five outings."I've completely eliminated the last game out of my thoughts," the right-hander told MLB's official website. "So to me, this is the first time I'm facing them. I'm definitely going to go out there and show them what I'm capable of, as opposed to last time."Houston's Jose Altuve is 1 for 7 versus Archer, but made only one plate appearance against the Rays last weekend while dealing with a hand injury. He returned to go 6 for 9 while the Astros were swept in a two-game set at Washington.They could not hold a pair of two-run leads during Wednesday's 6-5 loss to the NL East-leading Nationals.Collin McHugh (4-4, 3.03) will try to help Houston avoid a fourth consecutive defeat. He's given up seven runs and eight walks over 9 1/3 innings while going 0-1 in two starts after throwing 12 scoreless to win his previous two outings.The right-hander allowed four runs, five hits and three walks in five innings of a 6-1 loss to the Rays on Friday."I'm not happy with my fastball command," he told the Astros' official website.Zobrist had a double and a triple against McHugh in that game.Houston's Matt Dominguez is 8 for 20 with a homer and seven RBIs in the last five games, and went 2 for 2 with a double versus Archer last weekend.
Chris Archer is throwing his slider 31 percent of the time this season, fifth highest among qualified right-handed pitchers. As a team the Astros have missed on 39 percent of their swings against sliders from righties, the highest percentage in the league.
Ben Zobrist is hitting .071 (2-for-28) in at-bats ending with a breaking ball from a right-handed pitcher this season. Collin McHugh is throwing breaking pitches 50 percent of the time, second highest among all right-handers with at least 10 starts this season.