Astros sweep struggling Rays behind Tucker, McCullers

Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Kyle Tucker hit a two-run homer, Lance McCullers Jr. pitched seven effective innngs and the AL West champion Houston Astros completed a three-game sweep by beating the Tampa Bay Rays 5-2 on Wednesday night.

Houston second baseman Jose Altuve was hit on the left elbow by Corey Kluber‘s pitch in the fifth and left one inning later with elbow discomfort. He was replaced by Mauricio Dubon.

Astros manager Dusty Baker said Altuve will probably miss the opener of a four-game series Thursday night at Baltimore to try and get ready for Friday.

“He’s going to be sore,” Baker said. “It got him below the pad, right on the elbow. Anybody who’s ever hit in their elbow knows how much that can hurt.”

Both Tucker and McCullers went to high school in nearby Tampa, Florida.

“I like to play guys in front of their home folks … they tend to do better,” Baker said. “It means something to play in front of the family.”

The announced attendance for the series was 28,675, including 9,293 on Wednesday. The Rays have the major’s third lowest attendance this season overall despite entering the day in position to be the AL’s second wild card.

The Astros, 10-1 over their last 11 games, blanked Tampa Bay in the first two games of the series, winning 4-0 Monday and 5-0 on Tuesday.

“Great sweep here,” McCullers said. “A great couple days of baseball.”

It the was Astros’ first sweep at Tropicana Field.

After Martin Maldonado hit a solo homer in the top of the ninth, Ryan Pressly worked the bottom half to get his 30th save in 34 chances. Maldonado’s mother was at the game.

Kluber allowed one run and six hits over seven innings for the Rays, who are battling with Toronto and Seattle for the top AL wild card spot.

Kluber had given up 10 runs and 19 hits over 6 2/3 innings in his previous two starts.

After Aledmys Diaz got his second RBI of the game on a single that barely got through a draw-in infield, Tucker drilled his 29th homer into the right-center field stands off Brooks Raley (1-2). He has 102 RBIs this year.

McCullers (4-1) gave up two runs, six hits, two walks and had eight strikeouts. The righty is 4-1 with a 2.38 ERA in seven starts since returning from a right forearm injury.

Isaac Paredes gave the Rays their first lead in the series, at 2-1, when he opened the seventh with his 20th homer.

Tampa Bay stopped its 25-inning scoreless stretch on David Peralta‘s fielder’s choice grounder in the sixth. His hard-hit ball, a potential inning-ending double-play grounder with runners on the corners, handcuffed Dubon, who got the out at first.

Astros pitchers had a 26-inning scoreless streak snapped.

Diaz put the Astros ahead 1-0 with an RBI single in the first.

TV STAR

Injured Tampa Bay CF Kevin Kiermaier was the third man in the Rays TV booth. Kiermaier is out for the season following left hip surgery.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Astros: 3B Alex Bregman had the day off.

Rays: Ace Shane McClanahan, lifted from Tuesday night’s game in the fifth inning due to neck tightness, said he is ready for his next start Sunday. … RHP Tyler Glasnow (Tommy John surgery) is scheduled to make his third and possibly final start with Triple-A Durham on Friday night. RHP Dustan Knight, recalled from Durham Wednesday, said Glasnow has looked like a guy “who is ready to go out and pitch the seventh game of the World Series.” … Reliever Jalen Beeks (lower right leg tightness) went on the 15-day IL.

UP NEXT

Astros: RHP Justin Verlander (17-3, 1.78 ERA) looks to win his 10th consecutive decision Thursday night at Baltimore. Rookie RHP Kyle Bradish (3-7, 5.05 ERA) will start for the Orioles.

Rays: LHP Ryan Yarbrough (2-8, 4.33 ERA) will follow an opener JT Chargois (2-0, 4.41 ERA) Thursday night against Toronto RHP Jose Berrios (11-5. 4.99 ER)

Pujols hits 701st career home run, connects for Cardinals

albert pujols
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
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ST. LOUIS — Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols hit his 701st home run, connecting Friday night against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Pujols launched a slider from former teammate Johan Oviedo over the Big Mac Land sign in left field at Busch Stadium. The solo drive in the fourth inning made it 1-all.

Pujols faced Oviedo for the first time and made the 24-year-old righty the 456th different pitcher he’s homered against.

The St. Louis star hadn’t homered in a week since hitting No. 699 and 700 at Dodger Stadium last Friday. Pujols had gone 10 at-bats without a home run after two starts and one pinch-hit appearance.

The Busch Stadium crowd gave the 42-year-old Pujols a long standing ovation before he came out of the Cardinals dugout to tip his cap for a curtain call.

Pujols hit his 22nd home run this season for the NL Central champion Cardinals.

Pujols is fourth on the career home run list behind Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714).