ST PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — There was no opener needed for the Tampa Bay Rays in their first series of the season.
Yonny Chirinos covered splendidly for a taxed bullpen, Austin Meadows hit his second homer and the Rays took three of four games from the Houston Astros with a 3-1 victory Sunday.
Chirinos pitched seven innings, allowing one run, two hits and no walks while striking out six. The only run came on Jake Marisnick’s homer in the sixth.
The Rays had planned to use an opener for the first time this season, but manager Kevin Cash instead turned to the 25-year-old Chirinos rather than push his fatigued relievers.
“It’s definitely different,” Chirinos said through a translator. “When you start the game, you have more time to prepare. But you’ve just got to be prepared at all times.”
“Outstanding effort,” Cash said. “Yonny made us all look fairly intelligent for a day.”
Ryne Stanek will reprise his opener role — which he did 29 times last season — in Monday night’s game against the Colorado Rockies.
“We’ll keep our versatility,” Cash said. “We’re not trying to gauge, like, if you do this so well then we’re going to let you start. That’s not the case. We think our best matchups are when we can be versatile throughout the entire pitching staff.”
Diego Castillo, the fourth Tampa Bay reliever, closed out a three-hitter with three outs in the ninth. None of those relievers threw more than 17 pitches.
Astros shortstop Carlos Correa was hitless in his season debut. He missed the first three games with neck stiffness.
Tampa Bay was the only team to have a winning record against the Astros in each of the last two seasons, when Houston won a combined 204 games. The Rays need to win once in a three-game set Aug. 27-29 at Houston to take this year’s series.
“Needless to say we’re ready to get out of here,” Astros manager AJ Hinch said.
Meadows had three RBIs, including a two-run shot off Wade Miley (0-1) in the third. He also had an RBI single in the first.
Miley made his first start after signing a $4.5 million, one-year free agent deal. He allowed three runs and eight hits in six innings.
Tampa Bay scored 11 runs during the series, including eight with two outs.
“Obviously with two outs, being able to get that run in or get that big hit definitely helps fuel the fire for the pitching staff,” Meadows said.
The Astros had nine runs in the series.
The game took 2 hours, 12 minutes. All four games in the series lasted 2:40 or less.
Astros: LF Michael Brantley was rested. It’s something that Hinch plans to do with other regulars early in the season. “It probably feels like it’s early, but I’m going to leave some gas in their gas tank throughout the year,” Hinch said. Brantley pinch-hit in the eighth.
Rays: 2B Joey Wendle departed with a left hamstring strain. He will have an MRI. ... 3B Matt Duffy (back/left hamstring) has not resumed baseball activities and will miss all of April. An early to mid-May return is possible.
The game ended when Jose Altuve had his bunt with George Springer on third caught in foul territory by third baseman Daniel Robertson. “With Alex (Bregman) hitting behind me, I was the tying run and trying to get on base,” Altuve said. “It was a bad pitch and I should have taken it.”
Astros: RHP Brad Peacock, who won the fifth starter spot in spring training, will face Texas LHP Drew Smyly on Monday night. Smyly, coming back from Tommy John surgery in July 2017, threw one inning in a minor league game over the last two seasons.
Rays: Stanek go against Colorado RHP Chad Bettis on Monday night. Bettis, making his first start of the season, is 5-6 with a 7.20 ERA in 16 interleague games, including 12 starts.
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