HOUSTON (AP) - Wilton Lopez and closer Mark Melancon have been two of Houston's best relievers this season.
On Sunday things didn't go so well for the pair.
Lopez yielded a pair of singles in the eighth inning before Melancon walked B.J. Upton to load the bases and set up Matt Joyce's pinch-hit, go-ahead double that sent the Tampa Bay Rays over the Astros 14-10 for a three-game sweep.
Houston manager Brad Mills said the struggles for the two doesn't shake his confidence in them.
``(Lopez) and Melancon have had great years for us,' Mills said. ``Those are the guys we want in that situation and the guys we'll want there on (in the next game) as well, the way they've been battling.'
Melancon was upset about giving up the hit to Joyce after converting his last five save opportunities.
``The game is on the line and you need to throw one pitch and you make a mistake and it's going to hurt you,' Melancon said. ``That's what happened, and I feel terrible for these guys because we are in a situation we need to win these close ball games. I feel like I let the team down, which is tough.'
Evan Longoria homered twice and drove in five runs and Upton homered for the third straight day and drove in four runs for the Rays, who have won four in a row.
Longoria came within a triple of the cycle and had his first multihomer game since 2009 - one of his homers was initially ruled a single until the call was overturned after a video replay review.
Longoria had eight hits, including three home runs, and 10 RBIs in the series while going without batting gloves for the first time since his rookie season.
Lopez (1-4) set up Joyce's two-out, two-run double that put the Rays ahead 9-8. Casey Kotchman followed with a two-run single.
With all their position players on the bench used, Tampa Bay sent Saturday's starting pitcher, Wade Davis, to bat as a pinch-hitter in the ninth. He got his first career hit on a single to right field, and was later thrown out at home in a collision that shook up catcher Carlos Corporan.
Longoria then hit a three-run homer with two outs to give the Rays a four-run lead.
The Astros had taken an 8-7 lead in this wild, back-and-forth game on a solo homer by Jeff Keppinger off J.P. Howell (1-1) in the seventh.
``After the fourth inning, I felt like we had already been through nine innings,' Mills said. ``I know it was a long game anyway, but it seemed like the fourth inning almost felt like the ninth.'
Matt Downs hit a two-run homer off Joel Peralta in the eighth inning to get Houston within 11-10. Reliever Adam Russell gave up a single to Clint Barmes before a sacrifice bunt and a double play ended the inning.
``It was a pretty exciting game, and they are fun to play like that when they are close,' Barmes said. ``In these types of games, you are never out of it. Both sides swung the bat really well. It is just tough coming up on the short end.'
Upton's homer gave the Rays a 3-0 lead in the first. He drove in another run in the third to end the three-game series with seven RBIs.
Longoria's first homer was a two-run shot and came in the sixth. The ball, which bounced off the hands of a fan in the first row of the Crawford Boxes, was originally ruled in play and he was thrown out at second. The call was changed following the replay, and that made the score 7-all.
Rays starter Jeff Niemann, who is from Houston and played at Rice, allowed seven hits and five runs in his second game since coming off the disabled list with a back injury.
Niemann singled on a grounder in the second for his first career hit. He became the first Tampa Bay pitcher to get a hit this season after the staff entered Sunday's game 0 for 19.
Houston starter J.A. Happ yielded nine hits and five runs in five innings.
``Both sides had a lot of chances, and it was nice for us to get on the board early and stay on it,' Happ said. ``We just didn't have enough today.'
NOTES: Houston's Carlos Lee has three triples this season to tie a career-high from 2001 with the White Sox.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved