- Associated Press - Sunday, June 22, 2014

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) - Dexter Fowler hit the first pitch of the game on Sunday for a home run.

But Houston Astros’ offense struggled after that, striking out 13 times in a 5-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.

Everyone in the Houston lineup except George Springer struck out at least once, and it was the fifth straight game in which the Astros struck out at least 11 times.

“(We’re) just missing way too many hittable pitches,” manager Bo Porter said. “It’s not like we’re not getting good pitches to hit. We’re just not putting our best swings on ‘em right now.”

Yunel Escobar drove in two runs during a three-run sixth inning for the Rays, who won three out of four games in the series.

Escobar hit a two-run single and Sean Rodriguez had an RBI grounder off Dallas Keuchel (8-5) to give the Rays a 4-2 lead in the sixth.

Escobar’s hit barely got past first baseman Jesus Guzman and Rodriguez barely beat out a double play to keep the inning alive.

“This game can be pretty ruthless sometimes,” said Keuchel, who gave up nine hits in his third complete game of the season. “I was about a centimeter away from getting a double play there with Escobar; Guzy couldn’t quite get there (on Escobar’s hit) and that was the difference.

“I felt really good, but they were just beating it in the ground and that’s all I can ask for.”

Fowler put the Astros up 1-0 when he hit the first pitch from Erik Bedard into the left-field seats, his ninth career leadoff homer and third this season.

Bedard, who was with Houston last season, gave up two runs and seven hits in 5 1-3 innings, striking out eight.

Juan Carlos Oviedo (3-2) got two outs in the sixth for the win. Joel Peralta pitched the ninth for his first save.

Houston took a 2-1 lead in the third on Jose Altuve’s single. Jonathan Villar opened the inning with a double, was awarded a steal of third after a replay challenge resulted in an out call being overturned and scored on the hit by Altuve.

But the Astros never got a hit after the sixth, and five of their last 10 batters struck out.

“A lot of times we’re getting good pitches early in the count, and we’re fouling them off,” Porter said. “Then you put yourself in the position of hitting the pitcher’s pitch late in the count.”

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