Astros’ Gattis belts walk-off HR to beat Rays
HOUSTON -- Carlos Correa has made such a habit of walk-off theatrics that the only downside of his game-tying, leadoff home run in the ninth inning on Friday night was that someone else would have to play the role of hero.
Astros catcher Evan Gattis filled that void with haste.
Gattis followed Correa by blasting a walk-off home run to cap a wild ninth inning in the Houston Astros’ 5-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays at Minute Maid Park.
After Correa drilled an opposite-field homer to right field on the first pitch from Rays closer Alex Colome (1-4), Gattis claimed his nine-pitch confrontation with Colome by crushing a 3-2 fastball out to left field. The blast marked Gattis’ second career walk-off homer and the Astros’ 11th ninth-inning home run this season.
“It was one of the best at-bats all year,” said Correa, who belted his 19th home run of the season, of Gattis’ plate appearance. “Even the pitch he hit was a ball up in the zone and he was able to drive it out of the ballpark. So that was pretty amazing.”
Gattis’ 21st homer helped Houston (67-61) secure its sixth win in seven games.
The Rays (54-73) trailed 3-0 before mounting a methodical comeback, scratching across single runs against Astros right-hander Mike Fiers in the third, fifth and seventh innings before Mikie Mahtook blasted a two-out solo home run off Astros closer Ken Giles (2-3) in the top of the ninth that gave Tampa Bay a 4-3 lead.
Mahtook snapped an 0-for-34 skid Thursday with his game-winning, seventh-inning RBI double against the Red Sox. He appeared in line to be the hero again.
“Obviously, a tough loss -- lot of quick-change emotions there,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “Mikie comes up and gets a huge home run against a really good pitcher, and then we give it right back to them.”
By striking early against Rays left-hander Drew Smyly, the Astros provided Fiers some wiggle room to work through his control woes.
Smyly endured his own problems with control in the first inning, issuing two walks that aided the Astros’ two-run inning. George Springer walked and stole second base before later scoring on a fielder’s choice groundout from Jose Altuve, who came home when Gattis delivered an RBI single after a Correa walk.
Houston continued the ambush in the second when Jake Marisnick whacked his fourth home run of the season, a solo shot to left field that upped the lead to 3-0. But Smyly found his rhythm immediately thereafter, and the Rays slowly clawed back.
Smyly retired the final 14 batters he faced, completing six innings and allowing three runs (two earned), three hits and two walks with eight strikeouts.
“I started being more aggressive with my fastball,” Smyly said. “That was probably the biggest difference. But that’s a good hitting team, a lot of righties that can do damage so you just have to attack and try to be aggressive with them.”
The Rays took advantage of three Fiers wild pitches, with Corey Dickerson scoring in the third and fifth inning when Fiers threw wildly with Dickerson on third base.
Fiers allowed the leadoff batter to reach base for the fourth time in five innings in the seventh, with Logan Morrison stroking a single to right field before advancing to third on a sacrifice bunt.
Two batters later, Dickerson doubled for a third consecutive at-bat, this time off right-hander Michael Feliz to tie the score 3-3.
From there, the outcome rested with the relievers. Giles flinched, but Correa and Gattis responded by saddling Colome with his second blown save.
“It was going to be a battle of the bullpens,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said, “and we got two big hits.”
NOTES: The Rays will release OF Desmond Jennings on Saturday, three weeks after placing him on the 15-day disabled list with a right knee contusion. Jennings posted a career-low .218 on-base percentage over 65 games this season and has been plagued by injuries in each of the past two years, playing a total of 93 games. Jennings, 29, finished seventh in the 2011 American League Rookie of the Year balloting and played 567 games with the Rays, who selected him in the 10th round of the 2006 draft. ... Astros OF Colby Rasmus has initiated baseball activities as he continues his return from surgery to remove a cyst in his right ear. Rasmus was placed on the 15-day disabled list Aug. 5 and while non-committal on a timeline for his return is hopeful to be back in the lineup within two weeks. ... Astros RHP Lance McCullers began a throwing program that currently consists of light toss. McCullers was shut down after being placed on the 15-day disabled list with right elbow discomfort on Aug. 3.