By Brian McTaggart and Troy Provost-Heron
ST. PETERSBURG -- Erasmo Ramirez held the Astros to one run and four hits in six innings and Brandon Guyer blasted his third homer of the season, off starter Collin McHugh, to lead the Rays to a 3-1 win in in the series opener Friday night at Tropicana Field.
The victory snapped a four-game losing streak for the Rays and five-game losing streak at Tropicana Field.
"We needed that one," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "I think everybody in the clubhouse was kind of exhausted from not having good conversations after games. Now we are having some positive ones, and that's good to see."
The Astros, whose lead in the American League West is down to one-half game, lost their fourth game in a row and for the sixth time in their past seven games, falling to 2-6 on their road trip. Houston has scored a total of four runs during its four-game skid.
"It's a tough league, man," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "It's some difficult times. And you always put a little bit more pressure on yourself as starter, but like I said, we stick together as a group. We'll figure it out. We've gone through the lull before and came out of it fine, and we'll come out of it again. We had our best guy on the mound tomorrow in Dallas [Keuchel] and we'll find a solution."
Colby Rasmus gave the Astros a 1-0 lead in the second with his 11th homer. The Rays only had two baserunners -- other than the Guyer homer in the seventh -- after the first inning against McHugh, and both of them scored without a ball being hit out of the infield.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED It'll do: Trailing by one, the Rays kicked off their decisive sixth inning with Rene Rivera's leadoff single that was followed up with John Jaso's double. From there, though, the Rays did the bare minimum to pull ahead as David DeJesus grounded out to a diving Chris Carter to score Rivera and Evan Longoria grounded out on a one-hop liner to shortstop Carlos Correa that dribbled in between his legs to push across Jaso and give Tampa Bay a 2-1 lead.
"The little things that we have missed, we got them tonight," Cash said. "Longoria hit a bullet to the shortstop. Three days ago, that ball gets caught and we got a play at the plate. Today, it worked in our favor."
Offense can't back strong pitching: The Astros' struggling offense, which has managed four runs in the past four games -- all coming on home runs -- didn't do any favors for McHugh, who held the Rays to three runs and four hits in seven innings en route to a tough-luck loss. He's lost consecutive decisions for the first time since losing six in a row, June 13-July 27, 2014.
"It's a long season and you're going to go through, every team's going to go through stretches where it's tough to score runs, and every staff is going to go through stretches where it's tough to not give up runs," McHugh said. "I think good teams minimize when those roll around. That's what we're fighting to do. If we're not scoring runs, minimize as a pitching staff and keep our guys in the game as long as possible." More >
Ramirez keeps rolling: Ramirez continued his torrid pace on the mound for the Rays, delivering his eighth consecutive start of allowing two earned runs or fewer, which is the third longest streak in franchise history. Since moving into the Rays' rotation for good on May 10, he has made 11 starts, going 8-2 with a 2.10 ERA. More >
"Somebody bring their lucky rabbit foot in or something" -- Rasmus, on what it will take for the Astros to break out of their offensive funk
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS Luis Valbuena's leadoff double in the seventh was the Astros' first extra-base hit that wasn't a homer since Monday.
With one away in the bottom of the sixth, Correa hit a ball up the middle that deflected off Ramirez and rolled toward second baseman Logan Forsythe, who fielded it while lunging from second base and threw to first to get Correa. Second-base umpire Tony Basner ruled that Forsythe was off the bag and originally called Preston Tucker safe at second, but that ruling was overturned after a Rays challenge.
WHAT'S NEXT Astros: Ace lefty Dallas Keuchel (11-3, 2.14 ERA) will make his final start before the All-Star Game when he gets the ball at 3:10 p.m. CT at Tropicana Field against the Rays. He's thrown at least six innings in 29 consecutive starts and is the first Astros pitcher to win 11 games prior to the All-Star break since Roy Oswalt in 2005.
Rays: Jake Odorizzi makes his return to the Rays' rotation Saturday at 4:10 p.m. ET after being sidelined since June 5 with a left oblique strain. In his only career start against the Astos, he surrendered just one hit -- a single by Jose Altuve -- over 7 1/3 innings en route to a win.
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. Troy Provost-Heron is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.