Deuces wild: 6 2-run innings carry Astros past O's
By Ryan Baillargeon and Todd Karpovich
BALTIMORE -- The Astros took a two-run lead two batters into Saturday night's game and never looked back as they scored double digits for the second straight night in a 12-2 rout of the Orioles at Camden Yards. Houston, which had lost five straight before Friday, has scored 27 runs over the past two games.
Houston moved to 4 1/2 games back of Baltimore for the second Wild Card spot in the American League. The Orioles dropped to 2 1/2 games back of Toronto in the AL East.
"That was a good offensive night for us from the very beginning," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "We had numerous chances we didn't even take advantage of. We continue to get contributions from the top of the lineup, bottom of the lineup, middle of the lineup. It's a fun offense when we get going."
Alex Bregman jumped on Orioles starter Chris Tillman in the first inning, blasting a two-run homer for the Astros' seventh long ball of the series. George Springer added the eighth with his own two-run shot in the fifth, his second in as many games, and Jason Castro hit the ninth, a solo shot in the ninth.
"We've got to really start playing good baseball again," Tillman said. "We didn't pitch particularly well recently, but you've got to stick with it. We're grinding, [it's] not for the lack of effort, by any means."
Astros righty Mike Fiers limited the Orioles to one run over seven innings. His lone blemish came in the fourth inning, when Chris Davis belted his 29th homer of the season. Steve Pearce, who came off the bench, hit his first homer since the Orioles acquired him at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, a solo shot off Brad Peacock in the eighth.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Tillman struggles: Tillman, making his first start since being scratched with shoulder discomfort, didn't look like himself. The righty's fastball velocity was down in the first inning, which he said was from apprehension, and he routinely missed his spots. He walked the final three batters he faced before being pulled without recording an out in the third inning. The two-plus-inning start matched his shortest of the season, though the other was due to weather. The Orioles have now gone eight straight games without a quality start and their starters have posted an 8.82 ERA over that span.
"Physically, I felt fine," Tillman said. "That's the big positive coming out of this -- probably the only positive you can find. I felt good. Just couldn't command the baseball."
Bregman provides another spark: Bregman continues to impress, launching a two-run homer that set the tone for the Astros. It was his second home run of the series. With the possibility that Luis Valbuena could be gone for the year, Bregman -- who added an RBI double in the ninth to collect a career-high three hits for the second straight night -- is showing early signs that he could be the everyday third baseman.
"We've been able to do that the last two days," Bregman said. "Doesn't matter to me where I hit. I think we're getting into a little bit of a groove offensively, Hope we can keep it up [Sunday]."
Fiers bounces back: Fiers got Adam Jones to hit a short popup to first that ended the seventh inning, which completed one of the most effective outings of his season. After allowing nine runs, including five homers, over his past two starts (9 2/3 innings), Fiers dominated the Orioles' powerful lineup. He scattered five hits with seven strikeouts and a walk. He tied a season high by completing seven innings.
"Obviously, a big lead helps," Fiers said. "For me, I just have to stay within myself. I have to go out there thinking it's a 0-0 game and not give in. Just pitch like I know how to pitch. Keep going after them. Put the pressure on them and try to eliminate the walks."
Davis stays hot: Davis' home runs have come in bunches this season, and he's riding another hot streak. The slugger drilled a 2-0 fastball to left-center field in the fourth inning for his fifth home run in the past four games. It's the second time he's homered in at least four straight games this season. The opposite-field homer left the bat at 104 mph and traveled an estimated 427 feet, according to Statcast™.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
In the third inning, the Astros challenged that an inside pitch from Tillman caught Evan Gattis' jersey. After a review, the call on the field was overturned and Gattis was awarded first base for the hit by pitch.
Utility man Ryan Flaherty, who entered the game to play third base, moved to pitcher in the ninth inning. He became the first position player to pitch for the Orioles since Davis on May, 6, 2012. In his first career appearance on the mound in the Majors, Flaherty allowed two runs, including Castro's homer.
"I think every position player wants to try it once," Flaherty said. "It was cool to try it."
WHAT'S NEXT Astros:Dallas Keuchel has lost three of his past four starts and is still looking to get back into the form that earned him last year's American League Cy Young Award. Houston's bullpen has been stretched, and it will be helpful for Keuchel to go deep into the game, which starts at 12:35 p.m. CT on Sunday.
Orioles:Yovani Gallardo will get the ball in the series finale at 1:35 p.m. ET on Sunday. While the righty has struggled in his first season with Baltimore, he's been better at Camden Yards, where he's 2-0 with a 3.66 ERA in six starts. Gallardo is coming off a no-decision against Boston in which he allowed three runs in five innings.