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Tillman struggles, O's fall to Astros

BALTIMORE - The Orioles held baseball's longest active winning streak going into Sunday's series finale against Houston, with their ace on the mound and a sellout Mother's Day crowd filling Camden Yards.

But Chris Tillman's recent struggles continued, and Baltimore's streak ended in a 5-2 loss to the Astros.

Baltimore's No. 1 starter labored from the beginning, didn't make it past the fifth inning and never found his usual fastball command. Two starts after needing 49 pitches to get out of the first inning, May 1 against Pittsburgh, Tillman tossed 32 pitches in the first inning Sunday and put the Orioles (20-15) in an early hole.

Jason Castro's three-run home run, to straightaway center, came after Tillman walked the first batters he faced. Before most of the 45,944 found their seats, the Orioles trailed 3-0.

"It was a struggle for me," said Tillman, who walked five and struck out three. "Fastball command wasn't there for me from the get-go. I think if I'm able to make some pitches with my off-speed, I think I'd be able to get out of that. But nothing was really there for me early on. It was a battle all day.

"I think I was able to make some quality pitches, and at times it would get away from me. It's frustrating, but I've got to hang with it."

Tillman's last three starts haven't gone smoothly - he's 0-1 with a 5.17 ERA, 15 hits, 13 strikeouts, and 10 walks. His pitch counts have been high, location erratic, and outings shorter than preferred. But manager Buck Showalter said Tillman (3-2) kept the Orioles in the game. Tillman retired seven of his final eight batters before departing after six innings.

"He just hasn't quite gotten in sync consistently," Showalter said. "And he will. Fortunately for us, he kept us engaged in the game at 3-2. I take that as a positive. A lot of guys wouldn't, and I think that's a sign of his maturity. I know Chris is probably a little frustrated with today, all things considered."

Baltimore got to within 3-2 in the third with four consecutive singles. Adam Jones drove in two with his base hit to left field. Nick Markakis, Manny Machado, and Chris Davis each singled in front of Jones, who surpassed 500 career RBIs with his hit.

Markakis' single to left extended his hitting streak to 18 games in a row. He's batting .356 during the streak with two homers and eight RBIs, and he has hit safely in 21 of 22 games.

But the one-run deficit turned into three again when T.J. McFarland gave up a two-run shot to Marc Krauss with one out in the seventh.

Jarred Cosart got the win for Houston (12-26), improving to 2-3 with Tony Sipp and Chad Qualls closing it out. Cosart went six innings and allowed two runs, but Sipp fanned five batters in two innings and Qualls earned his second save.

Baltimore's win streak ended, but another one stayed intact - the Orioles are 1-5 with five consecutive losses on Sundays.

Davis came off the disabled list and played first base, but his return was muted a bit with catcher Matt Wieters going on the 15-day DL to rest his right elbow. And the last-place Astros leave town as Detroit rolls in, leading the AL Central with the second most wins in the league.

"Going into every season, there's a possibility of having injuries," Davis said. "It's part of the game. But we've been playing really well lately not having a full strength lineup so it's going to be good to get everybody back healthy and hopefully we can continue to play good baseball."

NOTE: After pitching three innings of relief, Orioles left-hander T.J. McFarland was optioned to Class-AAA Norfolk following Sunday's game.

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