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TB@HOU: Davis turns two in the first inning

HOUSTON -- Quality starts seem to be contagious for Tampa Bay pitchers these days.

Wade Davis won his third consecutive start and pitched the Rays to a season-high nine games over .500 on Saturday night, allowing one run in seven innings in a 7-2 win against the Astros at Minute Maid Park.

Davis and James Shields have combined to hold the Astros to two runs in 16 innings of work through the first two games of the series.

"To back up a start like Shields' with what [Davis] did is impressive," said Evan Longoria. "It really shows he's maturing as a pitcher. He pretty much did the same thing Shields did yesterday. He was aggressive and got a lot of first- and second-pitch outs."

The Rays are 7-1 in their past eight games, and their starters have a 1.41 ERA over that span. On the road trip, Tampa Bay starters have allowed six earned runs in 36 innings.

"I said going into the season I'd take those five guys in our rotation and put them up against anybody," Longoria said.

Davis is on his second three-game winning streak of the season. He has allowed just two runs in his past 13 innings, after allowing five runs or more in his previous four starts.

"I've always been strong in the second half, for some reason," Davis said. "I wish I was strong the whole time, all the time."

The Rays scored one run in each of the first three innings, beginning with an RBI double from Longoria. Astros starter Bud Norris had allowed just two earned runs in his past 21 innings entering Friday night.

"I was pretty frustrated to give up one in the first three innings, but I kind of settled down there in the fourth and fifth," Norris said. "I wanted to go back out, but we had to make a change there and it was a little tough. But to keep them at bay is all I can really do."

Longoria is now hitting 4-for-8 with five RBIs in his past two games since opting to hit without batting gloves. The third baseman has knocked in nine of the Rays' 27 runs during the road trip.

"It's not a direct result of the gloves, by any means, or no gloves, but superstitious as we are, I'll keep it going," Longoria said.

Johnny Damon's RBI single in the second inning gave the Rays a 2-0 lead and moved the left fielder past Jimmie Foxx for 72nd place all-time in hits with 2,647.

Damon also supplied one of two diving catches for the Rays, robbing Hunter Pence of a hit in the first inning. B.J. Upton delivered the other highlight reel catch, sprawling out in center field to take away a hit from Chris Johnson with one on in the fifth inning.

Upton ripped an RBI single in the third inning and a solo home run in the sixth inning, marking back-to-back nights with a homer for the center fielder. He had just one long ball in his past 30 games prior to this series.

"That's what this team's about -- timely hitting," Upton said. "I don't think right now anybody is standing out."

Upton went 2-for-4 with a home run and two RBIs, and nearly scored his second run of the game in the eighth inning on a double by John Jaso, but was gunned down at the plate.

With the stellar defensive plays came two uncharacteristic mistakes. Reid Brignac misplayed a Hunter Pence grounder in the sixth inning, and Sam Fuld was charged with an error on a dropped fly ball in the eighth inning. The blunders were just the seventh and eighth errors the Rays have committed in their past 20 games.

Davis (7-5) ran into trouble in the sixth inning, hitting Matt Downs with a pitch to load the bases with two outs before forcing a groundout from Brett Wallace. Davis held the opposing team homerless for just the second time in his past nine starts.

"I saw a more assertive fastball," said Joe Maddon. "He threw a lot of strikes with it and mixed in the curve and the slider as the game was in progress, but pitched primarily with his fastball."

Joel Peralta entered in the eighth inning and allowed one run in 1/3 of an inning before Kyle Farnsworth threw 1 2/3 scoreless innings to earn his 16th save.

The Rays added three insurance runs in the ninth, as the first four batters in the inning reached base. Fuld doubled and came in to score on Longoria's double to left, and Casey Kotchman capped his 3-for-5 night by driving in two runs with a single to left.

Kotchman is hitting .370 with 8 RBIs in his past 14 games, and leads the Rays with a .410 Interleague batting average.

"[Kotchman's] been doing this in a very stealthy manner," Maddon said. "You've got to pay attention. This guy's work at first base has been tremendous."

The Rays' 13 hits on Saturday broke a streak of 11 games with fewer than 10 hits.

"It's good to have games like today," Longoria said. "The hits aren't really the big thing; the hits in key situations are the big thing."

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