Astros Lose Third Straight In Tampa, 3-2
Gattis' Two Homers Not Enough

Snell: Mastery on the mound
(c) Getty Images
The numbers speak for themselves during Houston's three-game losing streak in Tampa, the latest loss a 3-2 decision Sunday afternoon that allowed Seattle back within a half-game of the division lead. (More on the Magical Mariners in a moment).

In their four game series at St. Pete, the Astros scored seven runs on 21 hits. That 1-3/4ths runs per game on 5-1/4 hits per game which just isn't going to get it done even with top-rated pitchers.

On Sunday, Charlie Morton spun six shutout innings and Houston held a brief lead on the first of Evan Gattis' solo homers. But Morton put two men on in the seventh then The Other Matt Duffy singled off Chris Devenski for a 2-1 Rays advantage.

Houston loaded the bases in the eighth but Jose Altuve struck out during a critical plate appearance then Yuli Gurriel, back from paternity leave, grounded out to end the threat. Tampa added an insurance run when Mallex Smith homered off Brad Peacock for a 3-1 lead.

In the ninth, Gattis drilled his second solo homer of the game, a shot to left off Sergio Romo who had just entered as the closer. After a base on balls, Romo bore down to get Jose Reddick on a double play grounder and pinch-hitter Marwin Gonzalez on a bounce out to end the game.

Morton was charged with the loss after allowing two runs on six hits and two walks in 6-2/3rd innings while fanning eleven. Blake Snell was a little better - lasting 7-1/3rd innings on four hits and one walk while striking out ten. Snell crafted his 11th win and seems a lock to get an All-Star bid.

The Astros get a day off on Monday to lick their wounds as they fly back to the Lone Star State and will open a two-game set against the Rangers in Arlington. Dallas Keuchel (4-8) will try to protect the division lead for the Champs Tuesday night against Austin Bibens-Dirx (1-1) in a 7:05 pm Central time contest at Global Warming Park.

The 55-31 Astros have a run differential of +170. Seattle's differential is a mere +22 and yet they are 23 games over .500 (54-31). Houston is +15 in the won-loss column in their division. Seattle is +4. Houston wins 2/3rds of their road games. Seattle wins 2/3rds of their home games. It's hard to see Seattle maintaining their pace with Houston but then we said that a month ago too.

Teams who lead their division at the All-Star Break go on to win their division at an almost prohibitive rate. If the Mariners decide to go for broke and trade for a Cole Hamels or a Jacob deGrom to strengthen their rotation, they could become a formidable opponent down the stretch.

- Bob Hulsey