Gritty performance from Musgrove pays off

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“When you get punched in the mouth you got to get up and punch back,” Musgrove said.

Musgrove struck out the first hitter he faced, Tampa Bay leadoff man Corey Dickerson, but the ball squirted past catcher Brian McCann, allowing Dickerson to reach first on a wild pitch. After Evan Longoria reached on a fielder’s choice, the floodgates opened against Musgrove with two outs.

“I wasn’t able to make good two-strike pitches,” Musgrove said. “I was in control most at-bats, I just couldn’t put guys away.”

“He couldn’t pound the zone,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said of his struggles. “He was throwing strikes, but he wasn’t throwing quality strikes and putting them where he wanted to.”

The Rays would tag him with five consecutive hits — a triple by Brad Miller, a home run by Steven Souza Jr., and singles by Shane Peterson, Rickie Weeks Jr. and Jesus Sucre — as Tampa Bay sent all nine players to the plate while building an early 4-0 lead.

“I’m the reason they got those four runs,” McCann said. “He should have got out of that pretty quickly and I feel terrible for that. That ball has got to get blocked 100 times out of 100. That first batter of the game sort of set the tone and it was poor, poor execution on my part.”

The righty would return for the second inning and proceeded to retire 14 of the next 15 batters he faced. The lone baserunner came after Miller walked to lead off the sixth. Musgrove ended up striking out four in what was his longest outing of the year.

“You’d like to add on, but I think you’ve also got to credit Musgrove for shutting it down,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “He got really good, mixed, and we just couldn’t get anything going after that.”

Musgrove credits center fielder George Springer for a pep talk after that rough first inning that helped him turn things around on the mound.

“It was tough to give up four in the first and still have that push to go back out there,” Musgrove said. “I didn’t give up and I talked with him and he kind of settled me down a little bit. With this team, you never feel like you are out of it, so I knew if I could keep them off the board the rest of the outing, we’d have a chance to slowly chip away and we did that.”

Scott Butherus is a contributor to and covered the Astros on Sunday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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