Right-hander Charlie Morton overcame an early home run by Jose Altuve to pitch five effective innings and Kevin Kiermaier gave Tampa Bay the lead for good with a three-run homer, helping the host Rays stay alive in the American League Division Series with a 10-3 win over the Houston Astros on Monday afternoon.
Tampa Bay’s triumph allowed it to narrow the Astros’ lead in the best-of-five series to 2-1, with Game 4 also scheduled for the Rays’ home field on Tuesday.
Coming off a win at Oakland in the AL wild-card game last Wednesday, Morton served up a homer to Altuve on Monday’s eighth pitch. It was the second baseman’s second home run of the series.
The veteran Morton, a former Astro, allowed just two more hits in his five innings, leaving with an 8-1 lead. He struck out nine and walked two.
“Not surprising at all. Charlie showed all the Astros what he can do,” Houston right-hander Justin Verlander said of his former teammate. “He’s been tremendous in big games when it’s all on the line. So I don’t think it was any surprise that he came out with great stuff and picked those guys up.”
Kiermaier’s homer came with two outs in the second after Avisail Garcia had singled off Zack Greinke and Travis d’Arnaud was hit by a pitch.
“We’re so much better when we’re playing with a lead,” Kiermaier said. “For us to go up two there was huge, and let Charlie do his thing from there. When we score early, we’re really good. So it felt good to put us up right there and get some momentum in the building.”
The Rays tacked on in the third on a solo homer by Ji-Man Choi, then sent Greinke to the showers with a four-run fourth that broke the game wide open.
Brandon Lowe ignited the big inning with a leadoff homer. Austin Meadows later delivered a two-run double and scored on Tommy Pham’s single.
Making his postseason debut for the Astros, Greinke was charged with six runs on five hits in 3 2/3 innings. He struck out five and walked one.
The Astros got as close as 8-3 in the sixth on a two-run single by Yuli Gurriel, before Willy Adames took Wade Miley deep for Tampa Bay’s fourth home run of the day to lead off the bottom of the inning.
A sacrifice fly by d’Arnaud in the seventh completed the scoring.
Adames had three hits, while Lowe and Matt Duffy added two apiece for the Rays, who were playing their first home playoff game since the 2013 AL Division Series against Boston.
Altuve, Gurriel and Yordan Alvarez had two hits each for the Astros, who struck out 13 times in the game.