HOUSTON — Outside of one rally, the Houston Astros never had an answer for Chris Archer.
The right-hander struck out 10 in seven innings, Corey Dickerson hit a three-run homer and the Tampa Bay Rays beat Houston 10-4 on Sunday.
“We didn’t put a lot of pressure on him early,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “He made his pitches. I thought we responded very well in the fourth with the three runs after getting down 4-0. 4-0 with Archer on the mound is a pretty tall task. We get back into it 4-3 with a lot of good at-bats in that inning and then he responded with high-end velocity. … When he’s locked in, he’s an elite pitcher. He sort of came in and out of that elite style today and held us at bay.”
Houston, in the hunt for an AL wild card, had won three straight.
Matt Duffy and Nick Franklin also went deep for the last-place Rays, who have homered in 21 of their last 24 games.
Franklin got three hits in his first start since returning from a concussion. Evan Longoria also had three hits for the Rays, who jumped out early against Doug Fister (12-9).
The right-hander allowed four runs, two earned, and seven hits in 4 1/3 innings, the fourth time in his past seven starts he has permitted four or more runs.
“I didn’t have my best stuff today but made some pitches,” Fister said. “They hit some balls hard, they hit some balls soft and did what they needed to do. Something that you don’t want to happen, but you’re trying to keep the damage minimal.”
Steven Souza Jr. had an RBI groundout in the second. Doubles by Dickerson and Longoria made it 2-0 in the third.
Luke Maile hit an RBI double in a two-run fourth. The rally was aided by a pair of errors on one play by Houston rookie third baseman Alex Bregman with two outs.
With the Astros trailing 4-0 in the bottom half, Jose Altuve hammered the first pitch he saw from Archer for his 21st home run, a two-run shot. Houston has 18 homers in the last 10 games.
Jason Castro cut it to 4-3 with an RBI single.
Archer (8-17) gave up three runs on four hits and two walks.
“I just felt really good overall today,” he said. “Last time I threw, obviously I felt pretty good. They’re a good, young team, so it’s really fun to go out there and duke it out with them. Today we ended up on the right side of it.”
With his strikeout of A.J. Reed in the sixth, Archer joined David Price and James Shields as the only Tampa Bay pitchers with multiple 200-strikeout seasons.
“Elite stuff,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said of Archer. “You put yourself into a category not a lot of pitchers get into. Coming in we knew Archer’s stuff was right there at the tops in baseball and that shows how elite it can be. If he continues to stay in the zone, he’s going to be in those categories quite a bit.”
Tampa Bay broke it open in the eighth, when Duffy and Dickerson combined to drive in five runs on a pair of homers.
“It did feel good,” Dickerson said. “To be able to see the ball well, consistently put on good swings instead of every now and then. It’s good to get some in a row and I think that helped me a lot.”
Franklin joined the party in the ninth with a solo shot to right. He has four home runs in his last 28 at-bats.
Houston’s bullpen gave up six runs and seven hits in 4 2/3 innings.
Astros RHP Luke Gregerson (left ankle) remained unavailable, but Hinch said the team will try to get the reliever into a game against Oakland this week. … OF Colby Rasmus (cyst in right ear) is scheduled to work out Monday and then it will be determined whether he will be activated or needs a rehab assignment.
Astros RHP Joe Musgrove (1-2, 5.20 ERA) starts against Oakland on Monday. Musgrove has given up 13 runs in his past two starts after allowing just three in his first two major league starts.