The Tampa Bay Rays are capitalizing on a favorable portion of their schedule.
Giving the ball to David Price could help them continue their winning ways.
The left-hander goes for his third consecutive victory - and second over the major league-worst Houston Astros - since returning from the disabled list when the Rays go for their first nine-game winning streak in nine seasons Friday night.
Tampa Bay has won 12 of 13 to move a season-best 13 games over .500. Its last 11 games have come against the AL's three worst teams - Houston (32-59), Chicago and Minnesota.
The Rays (53-40) have a chance for their longest undefeated stretch since a franchise-record 12-game surge June 9-22, 2004. They're averaging 5.2 runs in the last 13 games, with their starters posting a 2.13 ERA.
"It's simple, age-tested formula," manager Joe Maddon said after Thursday's 4-3 victory over the Twins. "We pitched well, we caught it and got some clutch hits. There's a lot of belief within the group."
That confidence is even higher with Price (3-4, 4.18 ERA) winning both of his starts after missing nearly seven weeks with a triceps strain. The reigning AL Cy Young winner needed just 98 pitches to throw a complete game in Sunday's 3-1 victory over the White Sox.
"I felt better five days ago," Price told the Rays' official website, referring to an 8-0 victory at Houston on July 2 when he struck out a season-high 10 in seven innings. "My fastball location was still there. If I can have command of that pitch, I feel like I can be successful at this level."
Standing in the way of the Rays' 10th consecutive home win is an Astros team that's dropped 15 of 21, including three of four at home to Tampa Bay from July 1-4.
Houston continues its eight-game trip with Jarred Cosart slated to make his major league debut. The right-hander - acquired from Philadelphia in the 2011 Hunter Pence deal - was 7-4 with a 3.29 ERA with Triple-A Oklahoma City, and his 93 strikeouts in 93 innings were good for fifth in the PCL.
His 50 walks, though, were second.
"I don't know much about the Rays, but I know (All-Star catcher Jason) Castro is great with scouting reports and (pitching coach Doug Brocail ) and those guys will help me do what I need to do," Cosart told MLB's official website.
Cosart can't expect much support with the Astros hitting .209 and averaging 3.4 runs during a 2-10 stretch. Jose Altuve , the team's leading hitter at .284, is batting .213 over those 12 games, while Chris Carter , Brandon Barnes , Matt Dominguez and Castro are hitting a combined .174 with 46 strikeouts.
However, Brett Wallace is batting .417 with two homers and six RBIs over the last six games after setting a career high with four hits in Wednesday's 5-4 loss to St. Louis.
He matched Carter with team highs of two homers and four RBIs against Tampa Bay earlier this month.
"(Wallace is) staying on the ball and hitting with a lot of confidence right now," manager Bo Porter said.
So is Rays designated hitter Luke Scott , who's batting .458 with two homers during a seven-game hitting streak.
Desmond Jennings had eight hits in the series in Houston and drove in a career high-tying four runs July 2 to back up Price, who improved to 2-0 with a 3.75 ERA in two starts against the Astros - both in Houston.
The Astros took two of three in their only series visiting the Rays from June 20-22, 2008.
|July 09, 2013||Ronny Cedeno||Day-to-Day||Left game - bruised left toe|
|June 29, 2013||Justin Maxwell||7-Day DL||Mild concussion|
|June 25, 2013||Justin Maxwell||Day-to-Day||Mild concussion|
|June 21, 2013||Trevor Crowe||15-Day DL||Sprained AC joint in right shoulder|
|May 26, 2013||Edgar Gonzalez||15-Day DL||Strained right shoulder|
|May 21, 2013||Bud Norris||Day-to-Day||Left game - lower back spasms|
|Tampa Bay Rays|
|June 28, 2013||Evan Longoria||Day-to-Day||Plantar fasciitis, left foot|
|June 16, 2013||Alex Cobb||15-Day DL||Concussion|
|June 05, 2013||Kelly Johnson||Day-to-Day||Back stiffness|
|May 16, 2013||David Price||15-Day DL||Left triceps strain|
|May 16, 2013||David Price||15-Day DL||Left triceps strain|
|May 08, 2013||Brandon Gomes||15-Day DL||Strained right lat|
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- Jarred Cosart had difficulty getting to sleep, so he spent much of the night before his major league debut online and learned he was about to face the hottest team in baseball.
Turns out he had little reason to be restless.
The 23-year-old Cosart took a no-hitter into the seventh inning, and the Houston Astros beat AL Cy Young Award winner David Price 2-1 on Friday night to end the Tampa Bay Rays ' season-best, eight-game winning streak.
"I try to stay off the Internet the day before, but I couldn't sleep last night," he said. "So I was messing around, I looked at the Rays' website, I see: `Streaking Rays, Price pitching,' all that good stuff.
"It's a natural instinct. You're like, `OK, they're good."
Cosart (1-0) limited the Rays, who have won 10 of 12 during a 14-game stretch against the American League's three worst teams, to a pair of walks before All-Star Ben Zobrist singled with one out in the seventh. Evan Longoria grounded into a double play to end the inning.
Cosart also yielded a single to James Loney in the eighth and was removed after walking pinch-hitter Kelly Johnson leading off the ninth. Cosart threw 96 pitches, 54 for strikes.
Cosart was he was "very nervous" before facing Price, who reached out to him on Twitter early Friday.
"He tweeted at me this morning and said good luck, and most of all have fun," Cosart said. "I look up to him. He's one of the best pitchers in the game.
"That was my thing, not to go out there and try to be David Price or beat David Price . He's a Cy Young winner, All-Star, all that stuff. I knew if I did that I'd probably overthrow. I just wanted to go out there and be myself, pitch down in the zone."
Carlos Corporan 's two-run, first-inning single provided all the support Cosart needed to beat Price (3-5), who allowed eight hits and struck out three in a complete-game performance.
Four of the five Rays who reached base against Cosart were erased by double plays. Jose Veras gave up an unearned run on Luke Scott 's two-out RBI single in the ninth, but struck out Longoria with the potential tying run on third base to notch his 18th save.
"You watched him in spring training. The times he went out you could tell this is a special arm," Houston manager Bo Porter said. "What I like about tonight was the level of composure he displayed.
"I just thought he did a great job of managing his emotions and really honing in on exactly how he wanted to pitch guys."
It was the second straight day that a rookie right-hander made his big league debut against a reigning Cy Young winner. Cleveland's Danny Salazar took a no-hitter into the sixth inning of the Indians' 4-2 victory over R.A. Dickey and the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday.
Cosart was equally impressive after being promoted earlier Friday from Triple A Oklahoma City, where he went 7-4 with a 3.29 ERA in 18 appearances, including 17 starts.
He began the night by retiring nine in a row before walking Desmond Jennings to lead off the fourth. Wil Myers drew a one-out walk in the fifth, but was erased when Matt Joyce grounded into an inning-ending double play.
Zobrist hit a one-hopper past diving second baseman Jose Altuve for Tampa Bay's first hit. Loney singled leading off the eighth, but Houston turned its third double play to thwart the prospect of a comeback.
Porter was reluctant to compare Cosart's debut with those of other young pitchers who have made an early splash.
"I think a lot of times when you have guys come up who are top prospects, one of the worst things you can do is start throwing out comparables," Porter said. " Jarred Cosart will establish who Jarred Cosart is, and I want to give him an opportunity to do that. I think he has the stuff to be an elite pitcher in this league, and over time he will answer all those questions."
Despite a rough first inning, Price was solid in his third start since rejoining the Rays from a 47-day stay on the disabled list with a triceps strain. He beat the Astros 8-0 at Minute Maid Park in his return on July 2, then held the Chicago White Sox to one run in a complete game victory last Sunday.
The Astros loaded the bases in the first on singles by Jake Elmore , Chris Carter and J.D. Martinez. Corporan's single to center produced a 2-0 lead.
Houston scattered four hits over the final eight innings, but only had one runner - Matt Dominguez , who doubled leading off the fifth - get past first base.
"That first inning, that puts us in a hole. That's probably part of the reason Cosart had so much success," Price said. "I gave him two runs before he made a pitch, and I know the difference in having runs, especially if you can get them in the first before you go out there."
NOTES: With the All-Star break beginning Monday, Cosart will return to Triple-A Oklahoma City "so he can stay in turn and then hopefully rejoin" the Astros at some point this year," Porter said. ... Astros OF Justin Maxwell , on the seven-day concussion disabled list, will be activated on Saturday to replace Cosart on the roster. ... Before this week, only two pitchers had made their big league debuts against a reigning Cy Young Award winner since 2000 - Edwin Jackson for the Dodgers against Randy Johnson in 2003, and John Danks for the White Sox against Johan Santana in 2007. ... The Rays went 24-20 while Price was on the DL. They are 10-2 since his return. ... After Tampa Bay pitchers struck out 32 in the final two games of a four-game sweep on Minnesota, Price fanned three on Friday. The franchise record for a three-game span is 42.