HOUSTON -- The number of bats Jerry Sands possessed dwindled just before his go-ahead single.
Three consecutive pitches resulted in a broken bat for Sands in the eighth inning. The first two were fouled off, taking a slice out of each bat. The third went fair, as Sands was jammed inside and hit a soft single to left field to score Matt Joyce with the go-ahead run in a 4-3 win over the Astros.
The Rays took two of three games from the Astros to win their first series in their last five attempts while they've tumbled to the bottom of the division.
"I need to get a bat order in now, I guess," Sands said. "I don't think I've ever broken two in an at-bat, but three consecutive swings was pretty crazy."
With runners on first and second in the eighth inning, the pinch-hitter wanted to make sure he wouldn't hit a ground ball. His goal was to elevate a pitch, so when the Astros' Jerome Williams threw a sinker, he made an effort to get his bat in front of the pitch. The result was a foul ball and a sliver of the bat breaking off. The next pitch was a cutter with a nearly identical result.
Williams tried to jam Sands on the third pitch, but Sands still lofted it into shallow left field for the team's fourth run. Jake McGee came on in the ninth inning and closed the Astros out for his second career save.
"I think I had a little more adrenaline knowing it was a one-run game," McGee said.
Rays manager Joe Maddon went with McGee because he likes him facing right-handed hitters, and the Astros were slated to have three coming up that inning.
While McGee pitched the ninth, David Price threw 116 pitches in the previous eight innings, holding the Astros to three runs. Price struck out 10 Houston batters, including four against rookie George Springer, for his third consecutive game with double-digit strikeouts. He tied a Rays record for consecutive games with at least 10 strikeouts set by James Shields in 2012.
"David is one of the best athletes I've ever met," Maddon said. "He's one of the several really good pitchers that I think can throw a fastball strike whenever he wants to."
Price has thrown six games this season with 10 or more strikeouts, which ties a career high for one season set in 2011. In those six games, he has 65 strikeouts with just three walks. Price has 121 strikeouts on the year with 10 walks.
"He's a bulldog on the mound and he's going to come after you," Houston's Dexter Fowler said after the game.
With the Rays' struggles this year, Price had to take a minute in the clubhouse to think back to his last win. It came May 24 against Boston. He moved to 5-6 on the year with an ERA of 3.93.
Yet, Price wasn't the focus of the Rays postgame celebration. That honor goes to Tampa Bay's video coordinator, Chris "Chico" Fernandez. On Saturday, Maddon had lost a replay challenge on a close stolen-base attempt. He went on to say that if that call couldn't be overturned, then no play could be.
Sure enough, Maddon learned that wasn't the case. It appeared Desmond Jennings had grounded into an inning-ending double-play in the sixth inning with Yunel Escobar crossing home from third. Maddon challenged the call at first and it was overturned, resulting in Escobar's tying run counting. The run tied the game at 3-3.
"I did not think we were going to get that one," Maddon said. "We've had others that I thought should've gone our way that have not, i.e. yesterday."
The replay and the broken bats worked in the favor of the Rays, who were in desperate need of a series victory having not won a series since May 23-25 against Boston.
"It's great to do that," Maddon said. "We need to start winning series and we did."
Mike Vernon is an associate reporter from MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.