Alex Bregman scored the game's first run with a solo home run to left in the fourth inning.
Martin Maldonado brought another run home in the seventh with a bloop single to left, and the Astros added another insurance run in the eighth with a Carlos Correa single to right.
That was enough for Houston as Gerrit Cole struck out 15 batters, setting a franchise playoff record.
The Rays got the tying run into scoring position in the ninth after loading the bases with one out. Will Harris struck out Travis d'Arnaud and forced Kevin Kiermaier into a groundout to first base to end the game.
- Gerrit Cole, SP, Houston Astros: 7.2 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 15 K
- Alex Bregman, 3B, Houston Astros: 2-for-4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 R
- Carlos Correa, SS, Astros: 2-for-4, 1 RBI
- Martin Maldonado, C, Astros: 2-for-3, 1 RBI
- Blake Snell, SP, Rays: 3.1 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 K
- Austin Meadows, LF, Rays: 1-for-4, 1 R
- Tommy Pham, DH, Rays: 2-for-4
- Brandon Lowe, 2B, Rays: 0-for-3
Rays get 'Coled'
Following his team's 6-2 defeat in Game 1, manager Kevin Cash told reporters the Rays "got Verlandered," alluding to how Justin Verlander gave up one hit over seven scoreless innings.
The problem with playing the Astros is that life doesn't get any easier as you work down the rotation.
In his last playoff start, Cole allowed five runs (four earned) as the Astros suffered the first of four straight defeats to the Boston Red Sox in the American League Championship Series. He atoned for that appearance by simply being unhittable for long stretches Saturday.
As if beating the trio of Verlander, Cole and Zack Greinke isn't difficult enough over a postseason series, opponents have to silence a lineup that features Correa in the No. 7 spot. And when you keep the Astros' biggest stars quiet for the most part, Maldonado steps up to deliver a clutch hit.
October baseball can be fickle because one or two bad games has the potential for swinging an entire series. But it's hard to see who can stop Houston from capturing a second World Series title.
Blake Snell Gives Tampa Bay Everything He Can
Entering the postseason, Snell pitched six total innings since being activated from the injured list. As a result, this was never going to be a true battle of the aces.
Cash lifted Snell in the fourth inning after he had thrown 58 pitches. His only real blemish was the homer by Bregman. All things considered, it was the best the Rays could have possibly hoped for.
Tampa Bay's hope at that point was the offense either tagging Cole for a few runs or driving his pitch count high enough to get him out of the game early. Neither happened.
Cole allowed a two-out double to Kiermaier and walked Willy Adames in the eighth. A.J. Hinch turned to Roberto Osuna to finish the inning, and Osuna struck out Yandy Diaz on three pitches to end the threat.
Things got dicey for Houston as Osuna attempted to seal a four-out save, but Harris shut the door before the Rays could complete their comeback.
The Rays host the Astros at Tropicana Field for Game 3 on Monday, with first pitch scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET. Charlie Morton will start for Tampa Bay, while Greinke will open for Houston.