After giving up 16 home runs in the three-game series against the Yankees earlier this week, it was hard to imagine the Orioles doing anything truly surprising during the opener of the three-game weekend series against the Houston Astros on Friday night.
And yet, they did surprise, finally holding an opponent to fewer than two home runs in a game for the first time since July 25 and snapping their major league record string of games in which they allowed multiple homers at 12. It was also the first time O’s pitchers allowed no home runs since July 23.
Not that it changed the narrative on this torturous 13-game home/road stretch against the Yankees, Astros and Red Sox. In spite of a solid performance by right-hander Dylan Bundy, the O’s suffered a 3-2 loss before an announced crowd of 19,407 at Camden Yards.
Bundy pitched six innings and gave up just two runs on five hits against a very strong offensive team, but still came up short on a night he was matched against former teammate Wade Miley.
“That’s a tough lineup to pitch against,'' manager Brandon Hyde said. “They foul off so many pitches. They have great plate discipline. They don’t expand the strike zone, so you have to make pitches in the zone to get these guys out.”
Miley, who gave up just a solo home run to Orioles left fielder Jace Peterson among the five hits he surrendered over 5 2/3 innings, has turned his career around since losing 15 games for the Orioles in 2017. He was 5-2 with a 2.57 ERA in an injury interrupted season with the Brewers last year and now is 11-4 with a 2.99 ERA with the Astros.
Bundy got off to a rocky start. He struck out slugger George Springer to start the game, but allowed hits to three of the next four batters and the Astros took a quick two-run lead. From that point on, he allowed just two hits and a walk before giving way to right-hander Shawn Armstrong.
"Obviously, his first couple innings, he really grinded through,'' Hyde said. “I thought he did a great job limiting the damage just giving up a couple runs that first inning, and obviously threw a ton of pitches in the first two innings. He really settled in nicely after that and did a nice job of mixing his pitches.”
The Astros scored their third run in the seventh on a leadoff single by Robinson Chirinos and a two-out triple by Jose Altuve. The Orioles then narrowed the deficit with their second homer of the game, a leadoff shot by Steve Wilkerson to right center field.
It was a tight, well-played ballgame, which was quite in contrast to the three-game fireworks show put on by the Yankees, but the Orioles again struggled to hit with men on base. They put at least one runner on base in eight of nine innings and ended up going hitless in six at-bats with runners in scoring position.
First baseman Chris Davis had a golden opportunity for some redemption in the ninth inning after his dugout dust-up Wednesday night with Hyde. Davis, who came on as a pinch-hitter in the seventh, hit with two out and the potential tying run on first base after Peterson kept the inning alive with a two-out single, but flied out to end the game.
Leadoff hitter Hanser Alberto hit safely in each of his first three at-bats and finished the game with a .318 average that now ranks him third in the American League.
Even in defeat, Hyde said he was pleased to see his pitchers keep the ball in the park for nine innings.
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"That was nice to see,'' Hyde said. “I thought we really pitched well. I thought Miguel Castro was outstanding. Big double play ball there in the ninth inning to give us a chance. Paul Fry came in and did his job. We played a good baseball game. Lost 3-2 to a tough team. Had opportunities to tie it and take the lead in the late innings, but didn’t get the big hit. But I thought we played well.”