By MARK DIDTLER
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Kyle Tucker hit a two-run homer, Lance McCullers Jr. pitched seven effective innngs and the AL West champion Houston Astros completed a three-game sweep by beating the Tampa Bay Rays 5-2 on Wednesday night.
Houston second baseman Jose Altuve was hit on the left elbow by Corey Kluber’s pitch in the fifth and left one inning later with elbow discomfort. He was replaced by Mauricio Dubón.
Both Tucker and McCullers went to high school in nearby Tampa, Florida.
The announced attendance for the series was 28,675, including 9,293 on Wednesday. The Rays have the major’s third lowest attendance this season overall despite entering the day in position to be the AL’s second wild card.
The Astros, 10-1 over their last 11 games, blanked Tampa Bay in the first two games of the series, winning 4-0 Monday and 5-0 on Tuesday.
After Martin Maldonado hit a solo homer in the top of the ninth, Ryan Pressly worked the bottom half to get his 30th save in 34 chances.
Kluber allowed one run and six hits over seven innings for the Rays, who are battling with Toronto and Seattle for the top AL wild card spot.
Kluber had given up 10 runs and 19 hits over 6 2/3 innings in his previous two starts.
After Aledmys Díaz got his second RBI of the game on a single that barely got through a draw-in infield, Tucker drilled his 29th homer into the right-center field stands off Brooks Raley (1-2). He has 102 RBIs this year.
McCullers (4-1) gave up two runs, six hits, two walks and had eight strikeouts.
Isaac Paredes gave the Rays their first lead in the series, at 2-1, when he opened the seventh with his 20th homer.
Tampa Bay stopped its 25-inning scoreless stretch on David Peralta’s fielder’s choice grounder in the sixth. His hard-hit ball, a potential inning-ending double-play grounder with runners on the corners, handcuffed Dubón, who got the out at first.
Astros pitchers had a 26-inning scoreless streak snapped.
Díaz put the Astros ahead 1-0 with an RBI single in the first.
Injured Tampa Bay CF Kevin Kiermaier was the third man in the Rays TV booth. Kiermaier is out for the season following left hip surgery.
Astros: 3B Alex Bregman had the day off.
Rays: Ace Shane McClanahan, lifted from Tuesday night’s game in the fifth inning due to neck tightness, said he is ready for his next start Sunday. … RHP Tyler Glasnow (Tommy John surgery) is scheduled to make his third and possibly final start with Triple-A Durham on Friday night. RHP Dustan Knight, recalled from Durham Wednesday, said Glasnow has looked like a guy “who is ready to go out and pitch the seventh game of the World Series.” … Reliever Jalen Beeks (lower right leg tightness) went on the 15-day IL.
Astros: RHP Justin Verlander (17-3, 1.78 ERA) looks to win his 10th consecutive decision Thursday night at Baltimore. Rookie RHP Kyle Bradish (3-7, 5.05 ERA) will start for the Orioles.
Rays: LHP Ryan Yarbrough (2-8, 4.33 ERA) will start or follow an opener Thursday night against Toronto RHP José Berríos (11-5. 4.99 ER)
More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
The post Astros sweep struggling Rays behind Tucker, McCullers appeared first on KVIA.