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Astros hit 2 HRs early before Price shuts them down in 4-3 loss to Tampa Bay Rays

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HOUSTON - The Houston Astros got some early runs off David Price on Sunday.

But pretty soon the Tampa Bay ace settled in and shut them down in a 4-3 loss.

Two of the Astros' first four hitters scored, both on solo home runs.

After that, Price (5-6) got rolling, striking out 10 in eight innings.

Price allowed homers to Dexter Fowler and Matt Dominguez in the first inning. He left after the eighth and got his first win since May 13. Fowler and Dominguez both finished with two hits each.

The rest of the Astros, however, went 2 for 25 as the Astros lost their first series in their past eight.

Fowler, who said he was a brief roommate of Price's prior to their major league careers, praised Price for his precision accuracy.

"That guy's a competitor," Fowler said. "The guy's going to come after you, and you just have to be ready to hit."

Price gave up a leadoff homer for the first time in his career when Fowler sent his 79 mph curveball into the Crawford Boxes in left field. That ball crashed off an LED video ad board, breaking it for the rest of the game.

The Astros connected again three batters later on Dominguez's two-out shot to left-centre.

Fowler doubled in the third inning and scored on a two-out single by Jesus Guzman to extend the lead to 3-1.

Pinch-hitter Jerry Sands broke three bats while singling home the go-ahead run in the eighth inning to help the Rays to the victory.

For the second time in a week, Astros manager Bo Porter moved reliever Tony Sipp to left field, then brought him back to pitch. There was a brief delay as the umpires huddled after Porter's strategy.

"We felt like at that juncture of the game, it was the best move to give us an opportunity to win the game," Porter said. "It gave us an opportunity to mount a comeback against a one-run lead rather than a bigger deficit."

It was the 20th career double-digit strikeout game for Price, setting a Tampa Bay record.

Matt Joyce singled to start the eighth and Jerome Williams (1-3) plunked Yunel Escobar. Sands then broke two bats on foul balls before shredding a third one on his hit to left field.

Jake McGee pitched a scoreless ninth for his first save.

Escobar had two hits and two RBIs for the Rays.

James Loney and Ben Zobrist singled to start the second before David DeJesus walked. Brad Peacock walked Escobar with one out, making it 2-1.

DeJesus walked with no outs in the fourth inning, advanced to second on a wild pitch and scored on a double by Escobar to cut the lead to 3-2.

Williams replaced Darin Downs with one out in the sixth inning and he was greeted with a single by Escobar. Jose Molina singled and Desmond Jennings grounded into a force play that left Molina out at second.

Jennings was initially ruled out, too, for a double play, but manager Joe Maddon challenged the play and it was overturned, giving the Rays a run that made it 3-all.

Soon after Sands' tiebreaking hit, Porter shuttled Sipp from the mound to the outfield. Maddon came out and talked to the umpires for a minute before play resumed.

Sipp returned to get the first two outs of the ninth.

Evan Longoria doubled with one out in the fifth before Houston rookie George Springer robbed Loney of extra bases when he made a running, over-the-shoulder catch on his fly ball just in front of the bullpen in right-centre.

NOTES: Astros 2B Jose Altuve was out of the lineup for his third straight game after being hit on the right hand with a pitch on Thursday night. He pinch-hit in the ninth and grounded out. ... The Astros put RHP Josh Fields on the 15-day disabled list with soreness in his right forearm and recalled RHP Paul Clemens from Triple-A Oklahoma City. ... Houston agreed to terms on a minor league contract with RHP Jose Veras on Sunday. He will report to the Astros' spring training complex before going to Oklahoma City. ... The fathers of Houston pitchers Dallas Keuchel, Jarred Cosart and Josh Zeid each threw out a ceremonial first pitch to their sons on Sunday to celebrate Father's Day.

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