'Pen, defense shaky as Astros cede WC ground

'Pen, defense shaky as Astros cede WC ground

HOUSTON -- A double-digit strikeout day from Chris Archer and 15 hits from the Tampa Bay offense proved too much to overcome, as the Astros lost ground in the American League Wild Card race with a 10-4 loss to the Rays at Minute Maid Park on Sunday.

The Astros are now three games behind the Orioles for the second AL Wild Card spot.

Archer, who threw a complete game, one-hit shutout in his previous outing in Houston, confused the Astros' lineup for all but one inning Sunday, notching 10 strikeouts and surrendering only four hits in seven innings of work.

"[Archer] was outstanding," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "Really, really got into a groove and stayed within himself. It was good to see."

It was Archer's fourth career win over the Astros in seven games.

Hinch on 10-4 loss to Rays

"4-0 with Archer on the mound is a pretty tall task," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "We get back into it, 4-3, with a lot of good at-bats [in the fourth inning], and then he responded with high velocity in the mid-90s. His 110th pitch was at 97, I think, so plenty of arm strength. He had his breaking ball. He's just wild enough with his breaking ball to keep you honest."

An inefficient day on the mound and a crucial pair of errors by rookie third baseman Alex Bregman turned out to be costly, as Astros starter Doug Fister lost for the fifth time in last seven home outings. He went only 4 1/3 innings, allowing seven hits and four runs (two earned), while striking out only one.

"These wobbly games where it feels like he's in trouble in multiple innings in a row, you look up and you're still in the game," Hinch said. "That's a credit to Doug."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Another 200 for Archer: When Archer struck out A.J. Reed swinging to end the sixth, he logged his eighth strikeout of the game and his 200th of the season. George Springer was Archer's 10th strikeout victim. Archer struck out 252 in 2015, second in the AL to Chris Sale (274). More >

Archer collects 200th strikeout

Another pair: Rookie Bregman had a pair of errors in Saturday's night game that didn't end up hurting the Astros, but he wasn't as lucky on Sunday. After Tim Beckham hit a slow chopper toward third, Bregman was unable to keep the ball in front of him, resulting in his first error. He then threw home, but runner Steven Souza Jr. was called safe as a result of Bregman's interference on the basepaths. Just like that, Bregman had two more errors to his name, and the Astros were down 3-0 in the fourth.

"You have one shot at third base to judge whether to come in or go back," Hinch said. "Yesterday, [Bregman] went back and the ball took the second hop and it hurt him. Today, he tried to come in, and he couldn't quite reach it, and the ball gets under his glove. It's still a learning curve for him."

Bregman's errors plates Souza Jr.

Leadoff suits Dickerson: Dickerson put the game on ice when he hit a three-run homer off a 1-0 pitch from Tony Sipp in the eighth. Logan Forsythe normally hits leadoff for the Rays, but he had the day off Sunday, so Dickerson batted first. He finished the day with two hits in four trips to the plate and three RBIs. He now has 18 homers for the season.

"[Dickerson] won't be [in the leadoff spot] tomorrow, but hopefully he'll keep hitting," Cash said.

Dickerson's three-run homer

Rally in the fourth: After Archer held the Astros hitless for the first three innings, Houston, in need of a spark, trailed 4-0 in the fourth. Jose Altuve provided just that with a two-run shot, his 21st of the year, to the Crawford Boxes, cutting Tampa Bay's lead in half. Castro later smacked a big two-out RBI single to plate Carlos Correa, which brought the Astros' deficit down to one.

Castro's RBI single

Bullpen implodes: Trailing 4-3 through seven, Houston still had a chance at a come back, but rough outings from relief pitchers Michael Feliz, Sipp and Brad Peacock in the eighth and ninth innings put the game out of reach. The trio combined to allow six runs off seven hits -- including home runs to Matt Duffy, Dickerson and Nick Franklin -- to give the Rays a six-run lead. More >

"Today at 6-3, the game was still close. He's got a perfect pocket for 'em," Hinch said of Sipp. "He can get those guys out. Execution wasn't his best today."

Duffy's two-run homer

QUOTABLE
"Elite stuff. You're putting yourself in a category that not a lot of pitchers get into." -- Cash, on what it means to reach 200 strikeouts for a season, which Archer did for the second consecutive year.

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Duffy's home run was his fifth of the season, but his first since coming to the Rays in the trade that sent Matt Moore to the Giants.

WHAT'S NEXT
Rays: The Rays travel to Boston to begin a three-game series against the Red Sox at Fenway Park at 7:10 p.m. ET. Matt Andriese (6-5, 3.71) will start after picking up a quality start against the Red Sox on Wednesday at Tropicana Field.

Astros: Rookie right-hander Joe Musgrove will get the start for the Astros as they begin a three-game series with the A's at Minute Maid Park, with a 7:10 p.m. CT start time. Musgrove (1-2, 5.20 ERA) is looking to rebound from a pair of rough outings in which he surrendered a combined 13 runs.

Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005.

Jordan Ray is a reporter for MLB.com based in Houston.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.