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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Rays understand they have a limited margin for error, and for the second time in three games, one of their defensive stalwarts endured a rough day in the field.
On Wednesday, the Rays survived a three-run misplay by Gold Glove center fielder Kevin Kiermaier and still edged the Tigers, but on Friday against the Houston Astros, third baseman Evan Longoria couldn't come up with a routine play that allowed the winning run to score.
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With the bases loaded and no outs in a 3-3 game in the seventh, Longoria fielded a ground ball from George Springer and looked to throw home for the out there, but bobbled the ball and had to take the out at third, allowing the run to score. The Astros wound up winning 6-3, but Longoria took ownership for his role in the loss.
"It's a play I've made a hundred times," said Longoria, who also had a throwing error and couldn't field a bunt in the ninth, contributing to another run. "Just didn't make the play. It's probably one of my worst days defensively in a while, and it ended up being the difference in the game."
For the Astros, now with the second-best record in baseball at 12-5, it was a clean game that showed promise in four innings of scoreless relief from the bullpen. As the series continues Saturday in St. Petersburg, veteran Carlos Beltran has found his power swing, with home runs in each of the last two games.
"Today was a good day for me," the 39-year-old said. "I think I had a good session in the cage and a good BP, and that translates into the game. I thought I was hitting the ball well, and my swing was coming very good."
On Saturday, the Rays try to get back on track with lefty Blake Snell, who is still seeking his first win with an 0-2 record despite a 2.76 ERA this season. He did not fare well in his only previous outing against the Astros, giving up five runs and nine hits in three innings in August, leaving the game after taking a comebacker off his lower left leg.
Houston counters with right-hander Charlie Morton, who has a comparable ERA at 2.81 and picked up his first win with the Astros on Monday, throwing five scoreless innings in a 3-0 victory over the Angels. Morton has faced the Rays only once, taking the loss while allowing three runs in seven innings in a 2014 game at Tropicana Field.
The Astros took advantage of the Rays' mistakes on Friday night, something that Tampa Bay had done in a three-game sweep of the Tigers. If the Rays are to get back on track Saturday, they'll need to play a cleaner game against one of the best teams in the American League.
"Good team obviously over there that took advantage of some opportunities," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "We weren't able to continue to add on and we let them creep back in."