One-sided does not begin to describe the games played between the Rays and the Astros lately.
Tampa Bay carried a seven-game win streak against Houston into Wednesday's game and appeared poised for a sweep of this week's series as it outscored Houston by 20-0 and outhit the Astros by 29-6 in the first two games. That all changed with two swings of Chris Carter's bat Wednesday.
Carter homered twice, including a decisive three-run shot in the seventh inning off of Jake McGee, to keep hope alive for a series split heading into Thursday's final game.
If not for Carter, the Astros might still be searching for their first run in July. Manager Bo Porter's club has lost seven of its last nine games, including six losses at home.
Porter suggested his players might be gripping the bat a little too tight.
"When you get in a funk, every guy getting in the batter's box thinks they're going to get the team out of it with one swing," he said. "I basically just told them, 'Do your part and keep the line moving.' Because if you keep the line moving, the more runs we're going to score."
Thursday's matchup on the mound features two young pitchers in Houston's Jordan Lyles and Tampa Bay's Chris Archer. Lyles has never faced the Rays, while Archer has never faced the Astros.
Rays: Loney still hitting
• Rays first baseman James Loney extended his hitting streak to 14 games when he went 2-for-4 on Wednesday. The streak is Loney's longest since 2008 and two short of his career high of 15 games, which started the 2008 season.
Loney, who grew up and attended high school in the Houston area, has multiple hits in six games during the streak.
Although Loney held his own against right-hander Bud Norris on Wednesday, his bat appears to prefer left-handed pitching. Loney's numbers against left-handers have shot up this season. He entered the year hitting just .248 for his career against lefties. This season, Loney leads all Major League left-handed bats against southpaws, hitting .372.
Astros: Pena trudges on
• Emotions are running high for Houston's Carlos Pena this week. The first baseman missed the three games prior to Wednesday's contest to mourn a death in the family of his wife, Pamela.
The Astros were not able to call to their Minor League system for help in Pena's absence because a death must occur in the player's immediate family to allow a move to the bereavement list.
"It's a very difficult time in my life right now, a time to heal," Pena said. "It doesn't happen overnight."
If that were not enough to clutter Pena's thoughts, he is facing his former team. Pena spent five seasons with the Rays, his longest stint with any of the seven teams he has played for. Pena remains the Rays' career record-holder in home runs (163) and walks (460).
• Astros outfielder Trevor Crowe reported to the club's Spring Training facility in Kissimmee, Fla., on Wednesday, where he will attempt to rehab the sprained AC joint in his right shoulder.
• Rays' outfielder Wil Myers is in elite company, as he is one of two players to start their careers having hit safely in 13 of their first 15 games. The other? Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig.