Not many players are happier to turn the page from June to July than Rays starter Matt Moore. After entering the month with an 8-0 record and 2.18 ERA, he struggled in June with a 2-3 record and 8.39 ERA. He'll have a chance to change his fortunes in July against the Astros on Monday night.
The Rays will face the Astros for the first time since Houston moved to the American League and will play them seven times in the next two weeks. Moore was excited to get the bat out against Houston's starter Dallas Keuchel until he realized that's not necessary anymore.
"As I was saying it to somebody, I was like, 'That doesn't sound right anymore,'" Moore said. "I kind of caught myself. It will be good for us to go over there. It's a fresh team. They haven't seen us and we haven't seen them."
Keuchel returns to the Astros' rotation after pitching out of the bullpen when his turn was skipped due to two off-days in a four-day span. He had a streak of five consecutive quality starts with a 3-2 record and 2.59 ERA over that span before appearing in relief against the Cubs on Tuesday.
Houston was swept by the Angels over the weekend, but the Rays aren't taking these matchups lightly.
"I don't think I have a grip on anything good enough to say, 'We can cross this team off,'" Moore said. "They have good hitters. I've been beat against teams that don't have as good of records as ours."
Rays: Torres coming into his own
In the past month, the Rays' bullpen logged a ton of innings, but also didn't give up many hits. Left-hander Alex Torres is a major reason for the success.
Entering Sunday, the Rays' bullpen had held opposing hitters to a .185 batting average since May 27, the best in the Majors. During that same stretch, the 'pen tossed 112 1/3 innings, second most in the Majors. The relievers were strong again in Sunday's win, holding the Tigers scoreless over three innings.
Eight of Torres' 12 appearances this season have been longer than an inning, and he's allowed just four hits and no runs with 24 strikeouts in 17 2/3 innings in those outings.
"He's got confidence in his stuff," catcher Jose Molina said. "And now he's throwing more strikes it looks like. More aggressive in the strike zone, and that helps to get your confidence up. I think it's helping a lot."
• Alex Cobb will not travel with the Rays to Houston while he continues his recovery from being hit in the head with a line drive on June 15.
Cobb played catch for the first time on Friday, and he said his condition is improving each day, although a date for his return has yet to be determined.
"The aggravating thing is I can feel good most of the day and once it gets to a couple positions I put my head in, it sets back a little bit," Cobb said. "There's no regression, it's just a reminder that I still have some fluid built up and my equilibrium is off a little bit."
Astros: Maxwell out with a concussion
Justin Maxwell was placed on the seven-day disabled list Sunday with concussion-related symptoms after attempting to make a diving catch on Tuesday.
Maxwell appeared in Friday's game as a pinch-runner, but a slight headache became more severe.
"When you start talking head injury and concussion, it's nothing to play with. And this is his third concussion," manager Bo Porter said. "So from an organizational standpoint, we're doing the right thing by taking every necessary precaution."
Outfielder Jimmy Paredes was recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma City to fill in for Maxwell. Paredes was hitting .340 with five homers, 14 doubles and 22 RBIs in 41 games for Oklahoma City.
• Carlos Pena will miss Monday's game against the Rays due to a death in his family.
Pena returned to the Dominican Republic with his family after his wife's nephew drowned. He will not be placed on the bereavement list, and Porter expects him to be back with the team on Tuesday.
• The Rays committed only 10 errors in June -- the third fewest in the Majors.