By Christian Boutwell and Bill Chastain
HOUSTON -- After a 12-run loss on Sunday to the Tigers, the Astros had no issues bouncing back as they rolled to a 14-7 win over the Rays, tallying 17 hits, including two home runs from Jake Marisnick, in Monday's opener of a four-game series at Minute Maid Park.
With their 69th win, the Astros are off to their best 105-game start in franchise history, lead the American League West by 16 games and have the best record in the AL by more than 10 games. Houston has also recorded double-digit hits 56 times.
Before the fifth inning came, the Astros had pounded the Rays for 10 runs on 12 hits. Energized by a five-run third that saw Marisnick -- who totaled five RBIs on Monday -- and Derek Fisher hit back-to-back homers off Tampa Bay starter Alex Cobb, the Rays' chance to counter were becoming slimmer by the inning.
"We scored a lot of runs today," said Astros second baseman Jose Altuve. "The guys swung the bat really good. It feels good to score a lot of runs after a tough road trip in Detroit."
With a two-run single second inning, Altuve knocked his 48th hit in July, one shy of the Astros' single-month record, currently shared by Lance Berkman, Rusty Staub and Richard Hidalgo. Altuve's scorching .485 batting average for the month was the highest in the Major Leagues since Chipper Jones' .500 in July 2006 for the Braves.
"I know I hit a lot. I know a lot of people told me that," Altuve said. "Like I said, the only thing I'm looking for is to help my team. We have a good lead in our division. We're just working really hard to keep winning games."
Backed by multiple RBIs from Marisnick, Altuve and Alex Bregman, the Astros took an 11-2 lead into the eighth inning before Corey Dickerson's second home run of the game sparked a four-run frame for the Rays, making the final score closer than the game really was. It was Dickerson's seventh multihomer game of his career.
Lucas Duda added another home run in the ninth for the Rays, who fell to 54-53.
"It's a good thing losses don't count as double; they only count as one," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "It certainly felt like a double loss, but good thing we get to bounce back tomorrow and try to get going."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Tone-setting second:Carlos Beltran and Bregman drilled back-to-back doubles in the bottom of the second inning, kick-starting the Astros' barrage. Bregman -- whose double scored Beltran -- stole third base in between walks drawn by Marisnick and Fisher, loading the bases for red-hot Altuve. The Astros' second baseman knocked his second hit in as many innings with a single to right field, scoring Bregman and Marisnick to give Houston a 3-0 lead.
Two homers in the third:Brian McCann, Bregman and Tyler White began the bottom of the third inning with singles. White's single scored McCann, leaving two on for Marisnick, hitting in the ninth spot of the Astros' batting order. With a 414-foot blast to left field, Marisnick became one-half of the Astros' seventh pair to hit back-to-back home runs this season, as Fisher clobbered a 370-footer in the next at-bat, completing Houston's five-run third inning.
"It's nice to have that kind of production in the bottom," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "It really makes things interesting when you roll to the top again. No matter who we put at the top, they've benefited from some guys at the bottom doing a good part. Some guys tonight, Bregman, Whitey, Marisnick -- seven, eight, nine -- it was another part of our complete offense."
"I don't know how quickly they turn around the Player of the Month Award, but they can bring it down to Houston." -- Hinch, on Altuve's historic July
"It was just one of those nights I didn't have it. Unfortunate. Come off a tough road trip to New York and looking to pick it up in this series and set the tone, but the ball just wasn't going where I wanted it to. It didn't have much life on it." -- Cobb, on his outing
"Wilson [catcher Ramos] kept asking for a slider. I don't have a slider." -- Rays backup catcher Jesus Sucre, who pitched the eighth inning to rest the bullpen
INJURY UPDATES Astros right-handed reliever Michael Feliz, who was recalled by the Astros earlier in the day to fill Lance McCullers Jr.'s' (10-day DL, back discomfort) roster spot, threw eight pitches in the seventh inning before exiting with right shoulder discomfort. He allowed Dickerson's second home run and did not record an out.
"We'll find out in the next day or so," Hinch said. "When he went out there, he was complaining of a little pinch in his shoulder. He'll get evaluated, the doctors will see him and the trainers will do their part. But at this point, I'm not sure."
Rays outfielder Steven Souza Jr. fouled a ball off his left foot in the second inning and left the game after playing the field in the fifth. X-rays were negative and Souza is day to day.
WHAT'S NEXT Rays:Chris Archer (7-6, 3.80 ERA) gets the nod for the second game of the four-game series against the Astros Tuesday at 8:10 p.m. ET. Archer is 2-1 with a 2.16 ERA in four starts at Minute Maid Park, and two of his three career shutouts have come against the Astros.
Astros: Right-hander Mike Fiers (7-5, 371 ERA) will make his 21st start this season against the Rays at 7:10 p.m. on Tuesday at Minute Maid Park. Fiers was 2-2 with a 2.89 ERA in five starts in July. Fiers allowed nine total earned runs in 28 innings in July.