- Associated Press - Saturday, June 14, 2014

HOUSTON (AP) - Houston’s offense has been one of the keys to its recent success.

Alex Cobb and Tampa Bay’s pitching staff didn’t give the Astros much of a chance to get it going on Friday night.

Cobb had 11 of the Rays’ season high-tying 16 strikeouts, helping Tampa Bay to its first road win in almost a month, 6-1 over the Astros.

Houston rookie Jon Singleton continued his hot start, hitting his fourth homer in his 11th career game. He also homered on Thursday night. But the rest of the Astros struggled as the team managed just three other hits and set a season high for strikeouts.

“This baseball season is way too long to think you’re not going to run into nights like this,” Houston manager Bo Porter said. “The best thing you can do is put it behind you and move on to the next day and tip your cap to the guy who threw one great game tonight and show up tomorrow ready to play.”

The Astros were playing without starting second baseman Jose Altuve, who was hit by a pitch on the right hand Thursday night and is listed as day to day.

“Any time you don’t have Jose in your lineup, it’s going to hurt you from the standpoint of he’s arguably our best player and leads Major League Baseball in hits for a reason,” Porter said. “His presence will be missed any time he’s not in the lineup.”

Collin McHugh (4-4) allowed five hits and four runs in five innings for the loss. The right-hander said his command wasn’t very good.

“I think anyone watching the game could see that,” McHugh said. “My fastball wasn’t very good, so I had to throw a lot more breaking balls and changeups. That’s not me as a pitcher. It’s not what I do best.”

Ben Zobrist, Matt Joyce and Evan Longoria drove in two runs apiece to break a 10-game road skid dating to May 16. It’s just the third win in the last 17 games overall for the Rays, who have the worst record in the majors at 26-42.

Cobb (2-4) rebounded from his worst start of the year to allow three hits and one run with a season best in strikeouts in 6 1-3 innings. He gave up 10 hits and seven runs in a season-low 4 1-3 innings in his last outing.

Singleton said Cobb was keeping the ball down in the zone and keeping the Astros guessing.

“He had a plus-plus changeup tonight,” Porter said. “As much as our guys wanted to make him get the ball up, we continued to expand our zone, which helped him and he continued to take advantage of our aggression.”

Joyce put the Rays up with his two-run double in the second and Zobrist, who finished with three hits, extended the lead to 4-1 with a triple that drove in two in the fifth inning. Longoria padded the lead with his bases-loaded two RBI single in the ninth.

James Loney reached on an error by shortstop Jonathan Villar to start the second inning before a double by Zobrist. Joyce’s double made it 2-0.

Houston’s Chris Carter singled with two outs in the second inning for his first hit that wasn’t a homer since June 3. He had hit five straight homers in that span. Robbie Grossman walked after that but Cobb struck out Marwin Gonzalez to end the threat.

Singleton sent Cobb’s first pitch of the fourth inning opposite field into the Crawford Boxes in left field to cut the lead to 2-1.

Cobb walked Matt Dominguez with one out in that inning before he got rolling, retiring the next eight, including striking out the side in the sixth inning. He also struck out the first three batters of the game.

The Astros didn’t get another hit until Dominguez singled to start the seventh. Carter followed by knocking a ball about 425 feet to straightaway center field, but Jennings raced up the hill to grab it.

Brad Boxberger replaced Cobb and struck out two batters in 2-3 innings and Joel Peralta fanned the side in the eighth.

Jennings doubled with no outs in the fifth before James Loney drew a two-out walk. Zobrist made it 4-1 with his triple to center field.

NOTES: Houston recalled RHP Josh Zeid from Triple-A Oklahoma City and optioned LHP Rudy Owens to the minor league team before the game. … The series continues on Saturday when Tampa Bay’s Chris Archer opposes Jarred Cosart.

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