The star of the game was Tampa Bay outfielder Manuel Margot, whose three-run home run put the Rays in front while also making a spectacular catch, fielding a ball in foul territory down the right field line while flipping over the fence and hanging on to the ball.
Ex-Houston righthander Charlie Morton pitched five shutout innings to pick up the win for the top-seeded Rays while Astros starter Lance McCullers Jr. went seven innings, giving up four runs, only one earned thanks to some shoddy defense.
Rays in pole position thanks to Margot heroics
The Astros had the first chance of the game in the top of the first after singles by George Springer and Michael Brantley put runners on the corners with one out. Morton got Alex Bregman to line out and Kyle Tucker struck out to end the threat.
With two outs in the bottom half of the inning, Randy Arozarena singled and Ji-Man Choi hit a ground ball that looked to be the third out of the inning, but Jose Altuve's throwing error kept the inning alive and Margot made Houston pay, sending a 3-0 pitch over the center field wall that put the Rays in front.
The former San Diego Padres outfielder, playing at Petco Park, his old stomping grounds, made the catch of the playoffs, tumbling over the fence down the right field line to haul in Springer's fly ball that was slicing foul, hanging on after going over the wall.
A second error by Altuve on a ground ball hit by Brandon Lowe in the bottom of the third didn't cost Houston and they had two men on thanks to walks to Yuli Gurriel and Martin Maldonado. Springer hit a grounder to second that Lowe bobbled at first, but recovered to make the play.
More good defense by Joey Wendle and Willy Adames got Morton through the top of the fifth and he ended his outing giving up five hits, one walk and five strikeouts while throwing 96 pitches. Pete Fairbanks came on in relief and allowed a solo home run to Carlos Correa to make the score 3-1.
He rebounded to strike out the side in the top of the seventh and in the bottom half of the inning with two outs, Mike Zunino blasted McCullers' 1-1 fastball 454 feet over the left-center field fence to restore Tampa Bay's three-run advantage.
Ryan Thompson got out of a jam, getting Correa to ground out with a man on and after Tampa Bay went down in order in the bottom of the eighth, Nick Anderson came on for the top of the ninth. Back-to-back singles brought Aldemys Diaz up as the tying run.
He promptly singled up the middle to load the bases for Springer, who hit a bullet to Lowe, stepping on second for one out and throwing to first for the second as a run scored. Anderson then walked Altuve and Brantley to re-load the bases, but Bregman lined out to Kevin Kiermaier on the first pitch he saw to end the game.
Game 3 is Tuesday night with first pitch scheduled for 8:40pm. Jose Urquidy will get the start for Houston while Ryan Yarborough goes to the hill for Tampa Bay.