By Christian Boutwell and Bill Chastain
HOUSTON -- Before Astros starter Mike Fiers threw his first 20 pitches, Evan Longoria used the home run portion of his first career cycle to take Fiers deep, as did Logan Morrison in the next at-bat, sending the Rays on their way to 6-4 win on Tuesday at Minute Maid Park. Tampa Bay's victory evened the four-game series at a game apiece and prevented Houston from reaching 70 wins in 106 games for the first time in franchise history.
"Good bounce-back win there," said Rays manager Kevin Cash, referencing Monday night's 14-7 loss. "Games like yesterday get separated and you move on from them quickly. Offense really came up big tonight to set the tone. They did a really good job."
Backing a solid six innings from ace Chris Archer, Longoria added an RBI triple in Tampa Bay's two-run third and singled in the seventh. He completed the second cycle in Rays history -- and sixth cycle across MLB this season -- with a double in the ninth, though it took a crew-chief review, as Longoria was originally called out on a play at second base.
The Rays' first-inning homers -- which gave them a 3-0 lead it would not relinquish -- bumped their season homer total to 157, the third-most in the American League, behind the Astros' MLB-leading 174 and the Rangers' 163.
"They were coming out swinging, early and often," Fiers said. "They didn't take too many pitches that were in the strike zone. I thought they did a good job against me … They just kept putting them on and it's kind of hard to stop when they're doing that."
Archer retired the first 13 of 14 batters he faced before Astros designated hitter Carlos Beltran tagged him with a solo home run in the fifth inning. Two batters later, Alex Bregman added another home run with a 342-foot chip shot that barely cleared the left-field wall.
The short homer was perhaps a little justice for Bregman, who was robbed of extra bases when Rays center fielder Peter Bourjos made a jumping catch against the wall in left-center to reel in Bregman's deep drive leading off the third inning.
Beltran added an RBI single that chased Archer with no outs in the seventh. Archer was charged with a fourth run when Bregman's groundout drove in Beltran to make it a 6-4 game. Steve Cishek, Dan Jennings and Tommy Hunter got out of the inning, with Hunter coming on with runners on the corners and two outs to get Jose Altuve on a groundout to short.
"He's one of the best in the league. In a lot of categories, he's right up there," Beltran said of Archer. "He's a true ace. Today, I personally feel he didn't have his best stuff, but he was able to battle for as many innings as he could to get his team a win. We had a few opportunities, but we just couldn't come through."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Rays firing in the first: The back-to-back home runs by Longoria and Morrison in the first inning were the Rays' MLB-best 12th pair of consecutive homers this season, extending their running franchise record. The blasts were the club's first back-to-back homers since July 1 in Baltimore.
Astros' threat not enough: It took until the fifth inning, but the bottom half of the Astros' lineup came to life once again. After a well-connected flyout by Marwin Gonzalez opened the frame, Beltran went deep two at-bats before Bregman added a solo homer from the eighth spot in the order.
Bregman's home run had an exit velocity of 89.4 mph, according to Statcast™, the sixth-lowest for a homer in the Majors this season. Bregman, who also hit an 88.3-mph homer on May 24, is first on that list. Four of the eight home runs with exit velocities under 90 mph this season have been hit by Astros at Minute Maid Park.
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Beltran's home run was No. 434 in his career, tying him with Juan Gonzalez and Andruw Jones for 46th in Major League history. Beltran is four home runs shy of tying Andre Dawson for the 45th all-time.
The first Rays cycle was recorded by Melvin Upton Jr. on Oct. 2, 2009, against the Yankees in St. Petersburg. Longoria's cycle was the first against the Astros since Adrian Beltre on Aug. 3, 2015, and it was the sixth to be completed at Minute Maid Park. Brandon Barnes had last accomplished the feat in Houston, for the Astros on July 19, 2013.
"[Cycles] obviously don't come very often, so I was definitely thinking about it," Longoria said. "I feel good at the plate from the beginning tonight. But it's tough when you're thinking about it. I probably would have been a little bit more confident or comfortable if I only needed a single. But it was kind of surreal."
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
The Rays challenged in the third when Brad Miller was called out at third for the final out of the inning. After a 1-minute, 37-second review, the call on the field would stand.
WHAT'S NEXT Rays:Austin Pruitt (5-2, 6.63) gets the nod in the third game of the four-game series Wednesday in an 8:10 p.m. ET contest. Pruitt will be making his second start for Jake Odorizzi, who is on the 10-day disabled list with a back problem.
Astros:Dallas Keuchel (9-0, 1.94 ERA) takes the hill for the third game of the series at 7:10 p.m. CT on Wednesday. The lefty will try to rebound from his last start, a three-inning outing on Friday in his return from 44 games on the disabled list.