HOUSTON — The Orioles' struggles suddenly have them closer to the American League East cellar than first place, which they occupied at least a share of for 35 days in the season's first two months.
They suffered their sixth straight loss and 12th in 15 games, 5-2, against the Houston Astros on Saturday night at Minute Maid Park.
The Orioles (25-22) scored three runs or fewer for the fifth time in six games. For the first time since the seventh game of the season, when they were 5-2, the Orioles are just three games over .500.
With the loss, the Orioles fell 3½ games behind the first-place New York Yankees and are just three games ahead of the last-place Toronto Blue Jays.
With their second loss in Houston, the Orioles have now lost three straight road series and four of their past five. They are 10-15 on the road this season.
In a lineup without center fielder Adam Jones (sore left ankle and hip), the top five hitters in the Orioles batting order – Joey Rickard, Welington Castillo, Manny Machado, Mark Trumbo and Chris Davis -- combined to go 5-for-20 with 10 strikeouts. The team finished with seven hits overall.
The Orioles struck out 13 times on the night.
Houston lefty Dallas Keuchel (8-0) held the Orioles to one run on four hits over six innings. The only run against him came in the third, when Castillo hit a two-out RBI single.
"The tempo's usually set by the other pitcher," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said, referring to Keuchel. "He's a great locator of the baseball. If you go back through his other outings and see how many times he misses location compared to other people, you'll get an idea of why he's so good. But they get up early like that, guys tend to push more, which falls right into his repertoire."
"He did a nice job," said Mark Trumbo, who struck out three times. "I think we got some pitches and we fouled them off. Obviously, myself included, we chased some, too. There's a reason his numbers are that good. He does a real nice job out there, but I think that we had a few that we probably didn't do as much with as we would have liked."
The Orioles scored their second run when Davis capitalized on his first triple since Sept. 21, 2013 – a ball that hit off the right-center-field fence and caromed toward center field – by scoring on a James Hoyt wild pitch in the seventh.
Miley goes five
Orioles left-hander Wade Miley (1-3) failed to get beyond the fifth inning for the fourth time in five healthy starts (not counting his two-thirds of an inning when he was pulled after being hit by two comebackers in the first). He allowed four runs on 11 base runners (eight hits and three walks).
Miley allowed two runs during a 24-pitch first inning, but it wasn't entirely his fault. After allowing a leadoff single to George Springer, Jose Altuve lined a ball to center that Rickard misplayed and let bounce to the wall for an RBI double. Carlos Correa then followed with a sharply hit ball that caromed off Davis' mitt to second baseman Jonathan Schoop. But the throw was wild, allowing another run to score.
Miley also yielded a two-run homer to Springer in the fourth that ended up being the difference in the game. Springer took a 3-1 fastball an estimated 447 feet to left field.
Miley needed a diving play from Machado at third to escape the fifth inning on his 100th pitch of the night.
Miley could have gone deeper, but he had six three-ball counts in his final three innings.
"The first inning, I felt like I was getting ground-balled to death," Miley said. "Balls were finding holes, obviously the [double] to Altuve, but I think there were about three or four ground balls that just kind of snuck through. It's part of it. I had a pretty quick, decent second and third, and then struggled a little in the fourth and fifth. But just a couple counts where I fell behind 3-1, 3-2, and it probably cost me 15-20 pitches and that's the difference between [five] and seven innings."
Astros get insurance off Wilson
After tossing a scoreless sixth inning, right-hander Tyler Wilson was chased three batters into the seventh. Altuve opened the inning with a single, then stole second and scored on Correa's single to make the score 5-2. Evan Gattis doubled to put runners at second and third.
Left-hander Richard Bleier came on and limited the damage, inducing three infield groundouts, including one off the bat of Brian McCann to Schoop, who went home for a play at the plate to prevent a run from scoring.
Wilson has seen his season ERA balloon from 4.91 to 7.43 over his past two relief outings.