|Surging Astros return home after 10-0 trip to take on Rays|
HOUSTON -- On Sunday, it was shortstop Carlos Correa who played a pivotal role in keeping Houston's winning streak alive, belting a game-tying home run in the eighth inning as the Astros subsequently rolled to an 11th consecutive victory by rallying past the Kansas City Royals.
Houston (48-25) relied on a number of contributors to complete a 10-0 road trip through Texas, Oakland and Kansas City, with Correa following Evan Gattis, Max Stassi, Brian McCann and an assortment of others in striking the decisive blow to keep the line moving.
The Astros have benefited from a resurgent offense and exceptional work from their bullpen to set a pace as the hottest team in the majors, with their stellar road trip underscoring their might.
"This was incredible just by the way we played and the way we completed games," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "Obviously, winning every game is incredible. We did it in a lot of different ways and so we want to keep the same intent and the same mentality that we've been playing with. It's been pretty remarkable.
"It's hard to put into words. It's been somebody different every night. We've had good pitching; we've had good defense. We've rallied late, we've blown guys out early, so we're in a good place right now and we've got to continue to do that going home.
"It was a long trip. We played in some hot weather. It's a pretty resilient group to keep playing well and coming up with enough runs to win."
Now the Astros return to Minute Maid Park to start a nine-game homestand on Monday against the Tampa Bay Rays. After improving to 29-11 on the road, the Astros are aiming to elevate their play at home, where they've been only slightly better than pedestrian (19-14).
"Hopefully, we can go home and keep grinding and keep playing the way we've been playing," Correa said.
Right-hander Gerrit Cole (8-1, 2.40 ERA) gets the starting nod for the Astros. Cole will face the Rays for the first time in his career. He allowed a season-high four runs in his previous start, working six innings and getting six strikeouts in a 13-5 win at Oakland on June 13.
Cole is 4-0 with a 3.89 ERA in his previous six starts, surrendering eight home runs during that stretch.
Right-hander Ryan Stanek (1-1, 2.55) will start the series opener for the Rays. It will mark the sixth start and 16th appearance of the season for Stanek, who has yet to face the Astros.
After working out of the bullpen three times in his first four appearances this month, Stanek logged consecutive abbreviated starts against the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees on June 12 and 16, respectively.
Stanek's outing against the Astros will mark the third consecutive bullpen day for the Rays (33-38), who claimed the finale of a four-game set in New York on Sunday behind 4 2/3 innings from right-hander Wilmer Font and four additional relievers.
The Rays welcomed back shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria from the 10-day disabled list, with Hechavarria finishing 3-for-4 with a run scored against the Yankees.
Hechavarria, who missed nearly a month with a right hamstring strain, is expected to play behind rookie Willy Adames and could be showcased as a trade chip in advance of the nonwaiver trade deadline.