Astros try to lock up series win over Rays

The Houston Astros will attempt to claim their first series win in nearly month as they take on the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field on Saturday afternoon to continue a three-game set.

Houston captured the first game in the series on Friday night, 2-1, behind a masterful performance from Jared Cosart in his Major League debut.

Cosart (1-0) carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning before allowing a one-out single to Ben Zobrist. The 23-year-old right-hander, who was 7-4 with a 3.29 ERA at Triple-A Oklahoma City this season, finished by allowing just two hits and three walks over eight shutout innings.

"The times he went out (during Spring Training) you could tell this is a special arm," Houston manager Bo Porter said of Cosart. "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."

Jose Veras surrendered a run in the ninth inning but still managed to record his 18th save, putting Houston in position to secure its first series victory since taking two of three versus Milwaukee on June 18-20. The club is just 5-13 since.

The Astros' only two runs scored came in the top of the first inning on a Carlos Corporan single. Jake Elmore, J.D. Martinez and Matt Dominguez each finished with two hits apiece for the visitors.

David Price (3-5) was the hard-luck loser for Tampa Bay, tossing his second consecutive complete game. He's surrendered just three earned runs in 25 innings since returning from the disabled list earlier this month.

Cosart admitted to being nervous facing off against Price, who wished him luck via social media earlier in the day.

"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."

On Saturday, the Astros will roll another young arm out when they turn to Dallas Keuchel, who is 4-5 with a 4.59 ERA in 18 appearances (11 starts).

Keuchel had a tough task his last time out facing off against Texas in Arlington on July 6 but pitched well, allowing six hits and two earned runs in five innings of work. Houston went on to win, 9-5, but Keuchel earned a no-decision.

The 25-year old southpaw faced the Rays a few weeks ago and experienced one of his worst outings of the season, surrendering eight hits, five walks and five earned runs over 4 2/3 innings in a July 1 loss.

The Rays will counter with Roberto Hernandez, who is also in the midst of a disappointing season at 4-10 with a 4.93 ERA.

Hernandez has not won a game since defeating the Red Sox on June 11. However, he has settled down in recent weeks with three straight quality starts. He allowed three earned runs over six innings of work in a July 8 no-decision versus Minnesota.

The 32-year-old Dominican, who had spent the previous seven seasons as a member of the Indians, is 5-5 with a 4.44 ERA in 13 career starts at Tropicana Field.

The Astros lost three of four to the Rays to start July.