HOUSTON -- Soon after the Houston Astros were shut out for the second straight game, manager Bo Porter was asked what was wrong with his offense.
With AL Cy Young Award winner David Price on the mound for Tampa Bay on Tuesday night, the answer was pretty simple.
“I think it’s called, Mr. Price,” Porter said. “That’s why he’s a Cy Young winner. And he pitched like it tonight.”
Price pitched three-hit ball for seven innings in his return from the disabled list and Desmond Jennings homered and drove in four runs as the Rays beat the Astros 8-0.
Price (2-4) had missed the last 44 games with a left triceps strain in his first stint on the DL in a six-year career. But he showed no signs of rust, allowing a season-low for hits and striking out a season-best 10 strikeouts.
“I’m not an excuse-maker, but David Price was pretty good tonight,” Porter said. “He had his ace stuff. When a guy wins a Cy Young, and he dominates throughout his career the way he has, sometimes you just have to tip your cap. This was one of those nights where we faced a really good guy who had his ace stuff. He took it to us.”
Manager Joe Maddon had said he’d be happy to get six innings out of his ace before the game, but Price was so efficient he got through seven with just 70 pitches.
Three relievers combined to finish the four-hitter, a night after the Rays two-hit the Astros.
“It’s just one of those things where we’re just not hitting right now,” Houston’s Matt Dominguez said. “Tomorrow, we could go out and get 15 hits or something. Baseball is crazy that way. We just have to keep grinding and doing what we do.”
Jennings, who finished with three hits, had a two-run single in the fourth to make it 3-0 and his two-run homer in the sixth pushed the lead to five runs.
Houston starter Erik Bedard (3-4) yielded six hits and four runs with a season-high six walks in 5 1-3 innings.
“I just tried to throw strikes, but it didn’t work really good today,” he said. “I’ll just work on it in the bullpen and come back the next start.”
Price had a tough time in his nine starts before the injury, winning just once in that span.
On Tuesday he looked crisp from the start, pitching a 1-2-3 inning before J.D. Martinez singled to start the second. But he still faced the minimum through two after Brandon Barnes grounded into a double play.
He struck out the first two in the third before a single by Jimmy Paredes, who was soon caught stealing to end the inning.
The 27-year-old, who won 20 games last season, really got rolling after that, retiring 12 of the last 13 batters he faced with five strikeouts. Houston’s only hit in that stretch came on a single by Carlos Corporan with one out in the fifth.
The Astros have been in an offensive funk lately, and haven’t scored in 21 consecutive innings. But that run was unearned, leaving them without an earned run in 29 innings. They’ve managed just four earned runs over the last five games.
Porter is hopeful that Houston can get the offense back on track soon.
“We’ve been pretty consistent with the guys that we’ve had here,” he said. “All 25 guys are here because we believe that they’re major league players. They’re either going to prove us right or prove us wrong. The last two nights, we’ve seen two pretty good arms.”
Tampa Bay’s Evan Longoria had two singles in his return to the lineup after missing three straight games with plantar fasciitis in his right foot. The All-Star third baseman was Tampa Bay’s designated hitter against Houston as he continued to struggle with the condition. He was replaced by a pinch-runner after his single in the ninth.
Houston had its best chance to score in the eighth with runners at first and second with no outs. But Joel Peralta replaced Jamey Wright, and he sat down the next three Astros to preserve the shutout.
Yunel Escobar hit a two-run double in the ninth and James Loney’s double sent him home to make it 8-0.
Jennings led off with a single before Sean Rodriguez drew a walk. Longoria walked with one out and Tampa Bay took a 1-0 lead on a sacrifice fly by Wil Myers. Bedard limited the damage by striking out Escobar.
Loney extended his hitting streak to 13 games with a one-out single in the fourth inning. Jose Molina walked before Loney advanced to third on a groundout. The single by Jennings, which sailed just out of reach of a diving Jose Altuve and into shallow right field, sent two home to extend the lead to 3-0.
Molina doubled to start the sixth and Bedard was replaced by Josh Fields with one out. He was greeted by the towering homer by Jennings, which bounced high on the wall in left field, to leave Tampa Bay up 5-0.
NOTES: Houston 1B/DH Carlos Pena returned to the team after missing two games following the drowning death of his nephew in the Dominican Republic, but he did not play. ... The series continues on Wednesday when Houston’s Bud Norris opposes Roberto Hernandez. ... Houston optioned RHP Hector Ambriz to Triple-A Oklahoma City and recalled LHP Brett Oberholtzer from there on Tuesday. ... The Rays optioned INF Ryan Roberts to Triple-A Durham on Tuesday to make room for Price on the roster. ... RHP Mark Appel, the No. 1 overall selection by Houston in the 2013 draft, will make his professional debut on Friday with Class-A Tri-City.