ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Charlie Morton was solid in his debut for the Tampa Bay Rays, pitching five innings and striking out eight against his former team in a 4-2 victory over the Houston Astros on Friday night.
The 35-year-old right-hander, two seasons removed from helping Houston win a World Series, allowed two runs and three hits in his first start since signing a $30 million, two-year contract as a free agent.
Yandy Diaz lined an impressive solo homer off Astros starter Gerrit Cole (0-1), who also yielded three unearned runs in the third, when shortstop Aledmys Diaz’s throwing error paved the way for Tampa Bay. Diaz has two errors in two games filling in for injured regular Carlos Correa.
Tommy Pham’s RBI single trimmed Houston’s lead to 2-1, and Ji-Man Choi followed with a two-run single to put the Rays ahead 3-2.
Morton, who gave up a two-run double to Michael Brantley in the third, walked three and also hit a batter during an 85-pitch outing.
Four relievers combined to pitch four scoreless innings for the Rays, with Jose Alvarado striking out Tony Kemp with two runners on in the ninth for his first save.
It’s not the first time Morton faced a former team in his first outing with a new one. He also did it in 2009 after being traded from the Atlanta Braves to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The right-hander went 29-10 with a 3.36 ERA in 55 starts for Houston over the past two seasons. He won Game 7 in both the ALCS and World Series in 2017 for the Astros and was a first-time All-Star a year ago, when he won 15 games and posted a career-best 3.13 ERA.
Cole allowed five hits and four runs — one earned — while striking out 10 over six innings.
Astros: Correa missed his second straight game with neck stiffness and is not expected to play Saturday, either. “I think we’re getting to the point where he’s going to have to do a full workout before he’s ready to play,” manager AJ Hinch said. “Hopefully that’s tomorrow, which makes Sunday more likely. I will wait a day too long rather than a day too short.”
Rays: Alvarado rolled an ankle while running but was able to walk back to the clubhouse after sitting on the warning track in right field for several minutes.
Astros: RHP Collin McHugh (6-2, 1.99 ERA in 2018) will start the third game of the four-game series Saturday night. He’s 1-4 with a 2.12 in seven career appearances against Tampa Bay, including five starts.
Rays: RHP Tyler Glasnow (2-7, 4.27 ERA last season) faces Houston for the first time in his career. He made 11 starts for the Rays after being acquired from Pittsburgh last July, allowing one run or fewer in five of those outings.