HOUSTON (AP) - Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon has talked often about how Yunel Escobar deserves All-Star consideration for his stellar play at shortstop this season.
The defensive standout showed on Thursday that he also can be a force on offense.
Escobar tied a season high by driving in three runs, including a tiebreaking double in the 11th inning that sent the Rays to a 7-5 victory over the Houston Astros.
Escobar and Desmond Jennings each doubled twice and singled, helping Tampa Bay win for the fifth time in six games.
``I'm just going out there trying to play the game and have fun,' he said. ``This is the first time in my career that I really feel like I'm having fun and I can be myself. I'm enjoying playing the game.'
Brett Wallace homered twice for the Astros.
Jose Lobaton walked to start the 11th and moved to second on a passed ball by Jason Castro. Escobar then doubled into the right-field corner off Josh Fields (0-1).
Escobar advanced on Desmond Jennings' fly ball to right and came home on a wild pitch by Wesley Wright.
Jamey Wright (2-1) pitched a scoreless 10th for the win and Fernando Rodney finished for his 18th save.
Wallace hit a three-run shot in the eighth inning, tying it at 5 with his second homer of the game. The Rays had just grabbed the lead with three runs in the top half, including a two-run double by Escobar.
``(It) was an emotional roller coaster,' Astros manager Bo Porter said. ``To give up the three and fall behind and then come back the next inning and have (Wallace) hit the big three-run homer, you really just want to build off that momentum and end it right there if you can.'
Evan Longoria had a run-scoring groundout in the first for Tampa Bay, and Escobar came on home on Jordan Lyles' wild pitch in the seventh, tying it at 2.
Wallace hit a solo homer in the fourth, and Jake Elmore had a sacrifice fly in the fifth for the Astros.
Elmore sparked Houston's rally in the eighth with a leadoff walk. Jose Altuve then singled before Wallace drove a 1-2 pitch from Joel Peralta over the wall in right for his third homer since he rejoined the Astros from Triple-A last week.
Escobar had the big blow in the top half of the inning, a long two-run double that landed on Tal's Hill in straightaway center field. Brandon Barnes appeared to have a shot to bring it in, but tripped and fell running up the hill.
``How about Escobar? How far was that ball hit to center field?' Maddon said. ``You don't see that play anywhere else in baseball, but their center fielder did a nice job. He went after that ball really, really well. I thought he had a chance and the hill got him.'
Tampa Bay rookie starter Chris Archer yielded two hits and two runs in six innings.
``I felt like all things were clicking, the defense was making outstanding plays, we scored runs in a timely fashion and overall today's game was kind of like the definition of the Rays,' he said. ``We pitched pretty well, we scored runs when we needed to, and we played defense.'
Lyles allowed six hits and walked three in 6 2-3 innings. It was a much better performance than his previous two starts, when he allowed 12 runs and 15 hits combined.
Longoria was Tampa Bay's designated hitter for the third straight game after missing the previous three games with plantar fasciitis in his right foot.
James Loney had a single in the Tampa Bay fourth to extend his hitting streak to a career-high-tying 15 games. The other time he achieved the feat was in 2008.
NOTES: Rays RF Wil Myers, a rookie who is considered one of best prospects in baseball, had a nifty diving catch to rob Castro of a hit in the first. ... Tampa Bay returns home on Friday to start a three-game series with the Chicago White Sox, with Jeremy Hellickson on the mound for the Rays against Dylan Axelrod. ... The Astros travel to Arlington to take on the Rangers on Friday. Houston's Lucas Harrell opposes Nick Tepesch. ... RHP Mark Appel, the first overall selection in the draft by Houston, is scheduled to make his professional debut on Friday for Single-A Tri City.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved