Lance McCullers Jr. dominates, Houston Astros dump Rays

Apr 30, 2021; St. Petersburg, Florida, USA; Houston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman (2) celebrates with third base coach Omar Lopez (22) after hitting a home run during the third inning of a game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Mary Holt-USA TODAY Sports

Tampa native Lance McCullers Jr. returned home to craft seven scoreless innings, Michael Brantley and Carlos Correa notched four-hit games and the visiting Houston Astros routed the Tampa Bay Rays 9-2 Friday night in St. Petersburg, Fla.

A prep star at powerhouse Jesuit High School in Tampa, McCullers (2-1) surrendered just three hits while fanning nine and walking three in his 111-pitch gem.

Spraying the ball to all fields, Brantley (three runs, RBI) went 4-for-5 — all singles — to raise his average from .317 to .345. Correa was 4-for-5 with two doubles, lifting his average from .277 to .303.

Aledmys Diaz posted four RBIs on two hits, and Alex Bregman (2-for-5) hit a two-run homer for the Astros, who tallied 15 hits and are 4-1 in their last five games.

Houston roughed up left-hander Ryan Yarbrough (1-3) for five runs on nine hits over six innings. The left-hander struck out five and walked one in his third rough showing in four total starts.

Brandon Lowe registered two of his club’s six hits, and Willy Adames had a two-run single in the ninth.

In their first encounter since the 2020 American League Championship Series that the Rays won in seven games, Houston scored in the first inning against Yarbrough, who entered the game leading the majors with a 23 percent hard-contact rate.

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However, Brantley, Yordan Alvarez and Correa rapped hard singles off Yarbrough in the frame, with Correa’s slash to left driving in Brantley for a 1-0 lead.

With Brantley back on after a one-out single in the third, Bregman barreled up a 2-1 changeup from Yarbrough to left for his fourth homer and a three-run lead. Diaz’s RBI groundout to short later plated Alvarez.

McCullers ran into trouble in the third after a pair of two-out walks, but he fanned Lowe on a sweeping curve.

Two batters after catcher Martin Maldonado’s fourth career triple to start the fourth, Brantley pushed it to 5-0 by dropping an RBI single into left off Yarbrough — three singles to every outfield position.

Lowe doubled with one out in the sixth, but McCullers bore down and got Yandy Diaz on a long flyball to right and struck out Joey Wendle on a tailing changeup.

Houston’s Diaz sent home Brantley in the seventh on a single and doubled in two more in the ninth.

With two outs, Adames broke an 0-for-25 skid with a single to center to prevent the shutout.

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–Field Level Media