Niemann sharp in Rays' 4-2 win over Astros

HOUSTON (AP) — Houston native Jeff Niemann struck out five in seven efficient innings, Dioner Navarro had a two-run double and the Tampa Bay Rays got away with some sloppy play to beat the Astros 4-2 on Saturday night.

The 27-year-old Niemann (4-0), a former first-round draft pick out of Rice, allowed four hits and one walk. He hasn't given up more than three earned runs in any of his nine starts.

Rafael Soriano shut out the Astros in the ninth for his 12th save. Tampa Bay leads the majors with an 18-5 road record and improved to 7-2 in games Niemann has started.

The Rays won despite two errors and a few baserunning gaffes, sending the last-place Astros to their seventh loss in nine games.

Left-hander Wandy Rodriguez (2-6) gave up six hits with four strikeouts and once again got little offensive support. The Astros have averaged 1.3 runs in Rodriguez's six losses this season.

The Rays loaded the bases with two outs in the first inning, after Carl Crawford singled and was picked off. B.J. Upton flied out to end the threat, another missed opportunity for the Rays, who went 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position in Friday's 2-1 loss.

Hunter Pence grounded out with the bases loaded in the bottom half, and Jeff Keppinger scored for a 1-0 Houston lead.

Rodriguez walked Upton and hit Gabe Kapler with a pitch with two outs in the fourth. Pence could not make a diving catch on Navarro's blooper to right and both runners scored to put Tampa Bay ahead.

Crawford doubled and Ben Zobrist beat out a bunt in the fifth. The Astros couldn't turn a double play on Longoria's grounder, and Crawford scored to make it 3-1.

But bad baserunning cost the Rays again in the sixth, after Upton walked and advanced to third on Kapler's single. Rodriguez caught Kapler leaning toward second and threw to Lance Berkman for what would've been another easy pickoff. Instead, Berkman threw home and catcher Humberto Quintero tagged out Upton, who made an ill-fated dash for the plate.

Berkman homered to center in the bottom of the sixth, his fifth of the season. It was the first home run allowed by Niemann in five starts.

Houston had only two other baserunners between the third and seventh — Berkman walked in the third and Pence reached on an error by shortstop Jason Bartlett. Niemann struck out Tommy Manzella and pinch hitter Cory Sullivan to end the seventh and Grant Balfour relieved for the eighth.

Zobrist drew a bases-loaded walk off Wilton Lopez in the ninth.

NOTES: The Rays have won 10 of their 11 games this season when their opponent has started a lefty. ... The Astros have hit 999 home runs at Minute Maid Park, which opened in 2000. Berkman leads all players with 149 homers at the stadium. ... The Rays have the best road start since Boston won 19 of its first 23 road games in 2002.

(This version CORRECTS Rays 4, Astros 2. corrects note about Rays' road record)