Pulled in with the rest of the Orioles’ infielders, Rougned Odor dove to his left, Yuli Gurriel’s sharp grounder just out his reach. The same was of the Rafael Montero changeup the Orioles’ second baseman saw while representing the go-ahead run in the ninth inning.
Gurriel’s two-run single in Sunday’s seventh inning provided the Houston Astros with their first lead over the Orioles in more than five game’s worth of innings, and it proved enough to deny Baltimore a second straight sweep at Minute Maid Park with a 3-1 victory, with Montero striking out Odor with two runners on for the final out.
The Astros had gone 47 innings without a lead against the Orioles dating to last season, with Baltimore claiming the first two games of the series behind dominant pitching performances from young starters Kyle Bradish and Dean Kremer. Sunday, Austin Voth matched them exactly by holding the American League’s best team to one hit through six innings before allowing the leadoff man to reach in the seventh.
The walk to Alex Bregman chased Voth after what had been six scoreless innings, giving Baltimore (67-60) a full turn through its rotation with all five starters working that deep. Even as the Orioles’ rotation has averaged more than six innings per start over the past dozen games, manager Brandon Hyde has still relied heavily on his primary bullpen trio of Dillon Tate, Cionel Pérez and Félix Bautista. Instead, he deployed right-hander Bryan Baker behind Voth.
A double from Kyle Tucker put two in scoring position for longtime Oriole Trey Mancini, who struck out for the fifth time in 10 at-bats in his first series against his former team. But Gurriel’s single through the right side past a diving Odor at second base ignited the 31,559 announced in attendance. The hit drove in more runs than Houston scored in the series’ first two games, with one of those scores on Voth’s line to leave Baltimore’s rotation ERA at 2.19 over the past 12 games. It marked the third time in four outings Baker allowed a run.
Joey Krehbiel managed to leave the bases loaded behind Baker but allowed a home run to Bregman in the eighth. An Orioles offense that also had its struggles in the series was shut out until the ninth.
A break but no breakthrough
The Orioles were always going to have a challenge in front of them Sunday, facing AL Cy Young Award frontrunner Justin Verlander.
Their first two batters singled off him, but Verlander recovered to strike out the next three Orioles in a 28-pitch first. They got two men on against him in the third, but Robinson Chirinos initially broke for third before holding at second on a flyout to center while Cedric Mullins tagged up from first, leading to an unnecessary out on the bases to end the inning.
It also ended Verlander’s outing, exiting after 60 pitches with what the Astros announced as right calf discomfort. Houston starters averaged 19.4 pitches per inning in the series, but the Orioles rarely capitalized on that, getting two hits in their first 20 at-bats with runners in scoring position in the series.
Houston’s bullpen, which entered play leading baseball in relief ERA, did not give them another at-bat in those situations over the next five innings. Their best chance was erased when Jorge Mateo was tagged out at third trying to extend a double in the fifth.
It marked Baltimore’s only hit off a Houston reliever until Anthony Santander’s one-out double in the ninth. He eventually scored on a single from Austin Hays before pinch-hitter Kyle Stowers singled off Gurriel’s glove at first. Odor worked the count full before striking out, leaving Baltimore 3-for-22 with a runner at second or third base in the series.
Around the horn
>> Hyde said right-hander Tyler Wells (left oblique strain) was due for a simulated game either Sunday or Monday. The Orioles are still determining whether he returns as a starter or reliever, with Hyde noting the building up for the former will cause Wells to take longer to return.
>> Outfielder Colton Cowser, the fifth overall pick in last year’s draft and the Orioles’ No. 5 prospect according to Baseball America, hit a walk-off home run Sunday for Double-A Bowie, where he’s hitting .341 with a 1.037 OPS in 49 games.
Tuesday, 6:10 p.m
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