The Orioles’ desire to model themselves after the Houston Astros ties strongly to the draft-and-develop model that turned Houston into a championship franchise. Sunday’s series finale showed that the prospects acquired through trades could prove as valuable as the ones Baltimore adds via the draft.
Making his major league debut for Houston, Yordan Alvarez slugged a two-run home run for his first career hit to break a scoreless tie in the Astros’ 4-0 victory Sunday at Minute Maid Park. At 21, Alvarez, the minor league home run leader, is only eight months older than Adley Rutschman, who the Orioles selected with the draft’s No. 1 overall pick Monday. Houston acquired Alvarez from the Los Angeles Dodgers for reliever Josh Fields in August 2016.
The Orioles are still waiting to bear fruit on their flurry of trades from last summer, acquisitions performed by their previous front-office regime, but the hope is that such moves at some point produce players like the 6-foot-5 Alvarez, who took a changeup down in the zone from Dylan Bundy and hit it a projected 413 feet at 107 mph, per Statcast.
“That’s a big dude with some long arms who has some serious power,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “I didn’t think it was a terrible pitch, but he got beat with it.”
Alvarez’s home run came two pitches after Yuli Gurriel provided the Astros’ first hit off Bundy. But even as Bundy continued a monthlong stretch of impressive starts, the Orioles bats could muster little against old friend Wade Miley.
In a year and a half in Baltimore during the 2016 and 2017 seasons, Miley had a 5.75 ERA. His six scoreless innings Sunday gave him a 3.14 ERA this season with Houston.
Hanser Alberto continued his success against left-handed pitching by beginning the game with a single, but he was unsuccessful in an attempt to steal second. He raised his average against lefties to a major league best .425 by singling twice more off Miley, doing so behind a single by Richie Martin in the third, but Trey Mancini followed by hitting into a double play both times.
The Orioles got Miley out of the game in the seventh, loading the bases with no outs, but Ryan Pressly, another successful Houston trade acquisition, retired the next three Baltimore batters to keep the game scoreless.
Baltimore has dropped the rubber game in its past five series and hasn’t won a series since April 22-24.
“It’s frustrating, but I think we’re playing better baseball and we’re staying in games and we’re giving our team a chance to win and could go either way,” Bundy said. “One hit or one better pitch and we win the ballgame.”
Bundy builds on success
Bundy used his fastball more frequently than he had in recent outings, but he carried over the success those other starts featured.
Bundy threw a fastball on 56% of his 91 pitches Sunday, the first time in five starts that more than half of his pitches were fastballs. Yet with six innings in which he allowed two earned runs — both coming on the homer by Alvarez — he has a 3.02 ERA in his past seven starts, a stretch dating to the end of April.
“I was just reading swings out there, me and [catcher Pedro Severino],” Bundy said. “The fastball up in the zone was playing and down and away.”
Sunday, he retired the first eight Astros before a walk to No. 9 hitter Myles Straw. He bounced back with a three-pitch strikeout to end the inning, then started the fourth with two more. Gurriel hit a 1-0 fastball clean up the middle, then Alvarez homered on the changeup down in the zone. Bundy finished off the inning with another strikeout, the last of his six.
“His pitch mix, and this has been talked about quite a bit, is just outstanding,” Hyde said. “His secondary stuff is really good, letting his fastball play. He’s competing. I love the look from him out on the mound, and he’s giving us a chance to win every time out. He’s doing a great job.”
The Astros added an unearned run off him in the sixth. Derek Fisher seemingly provided a gift by hitting a grounder in a 3-0 count, but shortstop Martin’s throw pulled Mancini off first base. Fisher stole second and took third when Severino’s throw went into center. He scored on Josh Reddick’s bloop single into center.
Davis sits second straight game
With the Astros starting left-handers Saturday and Sunday, Hyde held Chris Davis out of the lineup in consecutive games.
He pinch-hit Chance Sisco, who, like Davis, bats left-handed, in place of Martin against Houston right-hander Héctor Rondón in the eighth Sunday. In the bottom half of the inning, Sisco remained in the game at first base, Davis’ natural position. It was Sisco’s first professional appearance, in the minors or majors, at first.
Tuesday, 7:05 p.m.
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O's starter: LHP John Means (5-4, 2.67 ERA)
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Jays starter: RHP Trent Thornton (1-4, 4.73 ERA)