The last time the Astros and Rays met, Tampa Bay played like a team about to embark on an eight-game winning streak.
The Rays began that streak with an 11-inning thriller in Houston on the Fourth of July, and the teams reunite Friday night to start a three-game set at Tropicana Field.
The Rays have an established ace on the mound in David Price, while the Astros will counter with a prospect they hope can become one: Jarred Cosart. Houston gave its fourth-ranked prospect the call Wednesday night, and the 23-year-old will make his Major League debut in the opener.
"Cosart is one of the top pitching prospects in baseball, and he's been consistently going out there and delivering good start after good start with dominating stuff," Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said last week, while Cosart was still with Triple-A Oklahoma City. "He's the type of guy whose success will translate pretty quick to the big leagues when he gets a chance to come up here."
Cosart will be thrown into a tough situation, with the Rays riding their winning streak and the Astros having not won a series in their last six tries.
The Astros are coming off a brief Interleague set in St. Louis, where they dropped a pair of games against the former division-rival Cardinals and struggled to find room in the lineup for sluggers Brett Wallace, Carlos Pena and Chris Carter without a designated hitter under National League rules.
"It's totally different when you're in a National League ballpark," Houston manager Bo Porter said. "You look at our schedule, [those were] the last two National League games that we will play in a National League ballpark.
"So moving forward, we're pretty much under the DH rules -- where you are allowed to have an extra hitter in the lineup -- so I think everybody will get their at-bats."
Tampa Bay will try to greet Cosart with the same offense it unleashed on the Astros last week, when it scored 28 runs and took three of four games.
Price could be the perfect guy to keep that ball rolling, as he's been outstanding in two starts since returning from the disabled list. The left-hander tossed a complete game last time out against the White Sox, issuing no walks and allowing only one run on eight hits in a 3-1 win.
"Just being more efficient, and that's from being around the plate more," Price said of his last two starts. "Whenever you have guys in pitchers' counts, especially 0-2 and 1-2, it forces action. You make guys have to swing at pitches that might be a little bit off the plate. A little bit up. A little bit down. Whenever you're ahead in the count, you can expand a little bit more, and it makes it a lot easier to get weak contact that way."
In his comeback after missing seven weeks with a strained left triceps, Price looked like his former American League Cy Young Award-winning self, holding the Astros to three hits and no runs, striking out 10 and throwing 70 pitches over seven innings.
"It's just having that feeling," Price said. "Having that mindset out on the mound -- Fernando [Rodney] says it every day when he comes in. It's all mental. You have to have that mindset when you're out there, and everything feels really good right now. Whenever it feels like this, you want to keep it going."
Astros: Carter makes impact felt in return
Carter was back in the lineup Wednesday against the Cardinals after dealing with a minor hand injury the past four days.
He didn't miss a beat, slugging his 18th homer of the season with a solo shot in the second inning off St. Louis starter Shelby Miller. He finished 1-for-3 with two walks.
Carter took a ball off his right hand as he slid into second base against the Rangers last Friday, causing some soreness and pain when he put pressure on it or swung a bat.
"Everything is good," Carter said. "I got a couple pinch-hits, but it's good to be back out there again."
Rays: Torres superb out of bullpen
One of the most important contributors to the Rays' recent success wasn't even on the Major League roster as recently as Memorial Day.
Lefty Alex Torres has become the next great thing in the Rays' bullpen, locking down teams to the tune of no hits and two walks over his last five innings of shutout work.
"He's turning into some kind of relief pitcher right now," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
Since Torres' promotion from Triple-A Durham on June 1, he leads all AL relievers (with a minimum of 15 innings pitched) with a 0.41 ERA and .096 opponents' batting average. He also ranks second among all Major League relievers with 30 strikeouts during that span, trailing only Kansas City closer Greg Holland (34).
• The Astros haven't won a series since taking two of three from the Brewers from June 18-20 to wrap up a 5-2 homestand. They haven't matched that win total in the three weeks since, tallying four wins and getting swept twice.
• Tampa Bay's Luke Scott has a seven-game hitting streak, during which he's batting .458.
Chris Abshire is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.