Yonny Chirinos covered splendidly for Tampa Bay’s 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.
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. 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.
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.
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. The Astros had nine runs.
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 manager AJ 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. … 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.
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: Will use either an opener or bullpen day 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.