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Sluggish offense dooms Astros in 4-1 loss to Orioles

Solid outing for Valdez, but not enough offensive support

Baltimore Orioles v Houston Astros Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Craig Biggio once described the impact of a late arrival into town as having a more prominent effect not on that night’s game, but the one that followed.

Biggio’s words may have rung true for the Houston Astros Saturday afternoon when they hosted the Baltimore Orioles.

After a 14-inning, 8-7 victory Thursday in Seattle, the Astros didn’t return home until early Friday morning. Later that day, Houston eked out a 4-3 victory in 11 innings to stretch the club’s winning streak against the Orioles at Minute Maid Park to 10 games.

Saturday, the Astros looked like a weary team—one that had just played consecutive extra-inning games and endured a long sojourn back from the Pacific Northwest in between—as they were unable to muster much offensively against a struggling pitcher and opponent.

Andrew Cashner entered with an ERA north of 5.00 and the Baltimore staff had allowed the second-most runs per game in MLB this year (6.03, narrowly behind Seattle). Even so, the Astros logged just four hits—all singles— in their 4-1 loss to the Orioles.

Baltimore Orioles v Houston Astros Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

On the bright side, Framber Valdez made the most of his first start of 2019. The Astros’ 25-year-old lefty experienced success getting the ball on the ground last season and did so against the Orioles.

Valdez—who would have led the Majors in groundball-percentage (70.3%) last season if he qualified—tossed a career-high seven innings of one-run ball, allowed just five hits, and struck out seven.

Of the 21 outs recorded by Valdez, all but one came via the strikeout or groundout. He threw 57 of his 84 pitches for strikes and issued no walks, a welcome feat for a young pitcher who has struggled with wildness thus far during his brief MLB career.

Though six of the seven strikeouts Valdez recorded were on a curveball, he had the whole arsenal working.

The game’s first run didn’t come until the sixth inning, when Renato Nunez sent a deep blast over the train tracks in left to put the O’s ahead 1-0.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Houston Astros Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

The Astros tied the game in the bottom half of the sixth, though they likely expected much more than that.

Derek Fisher hit a leadoff single on the first pitch and Alex Bregman followed with a single to beat the shift, putting runners on the corners with nobody out.

With one out, Yuli Gurriel lofted a drive to deep right center, but Anthony Santander made a leaping catch at the wall to rob him of extra bases. Though Fisher scored on the flyball, Santander threw out a retreating Michael Brantley at first to end the inning.

Hanser Alberto started the eighth inning with a double against reliever Will Harris. Trey Mancini followed with a bloop single to right to put runners at first and third for the O’s with no outs.

The Astros nearly escaped unscathed after Bregman corralled a grounder hit his way to catch Alberto in a rundown for the first out.

Baltimore Orioles v Houston Astros Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Harris induced what looked to be a double-play ball from catcher Pedro Severino, but Jack Mayfield misfired on his throw to first and the Orioles scored the go-ahead run.

Reymin Guduan pitched the ninth for the Astros. Guduan struck out his first two batters on six pitches before walking Stevie Wilkerson—who was hitting under .100 as a right-handed batter in his career—and giving up a two-strike, two-run homer to Richie Martin, who was batting .168 prior, with two strikes.

Lefthander Paul Fry (1-3, 3.29) retired the first five Astros he faced to earn his first win of the season and second of his career. Miguel Castro retired the final four Astros’ batters in succession to earn his second save of the season. Harris (1-1) took the loss for Houston.

Andrew Cashner, who entered with the highest hard-hit rate highest (49%) amongst MLB starters this season, tossed six innings and allowed just one run on four hits for the Orioles.

Josh Reddick singled with one out in the second inning for his 1,000th career base hit.

Box score and videos here.

The Astros conclude their series with the Orioles Sunday afternoon when Wade Miley (5-3, 3.39) squares off with Dylan Bundy (3-6, 4.64). Miley pitched five innings Tuesday in the Astros 11-5 win against the Seattle Mariners, allowing three runs on three hits and three walks, but didn’t factor into the decision. Bundy lasted five innings and allowed three runs on six hits to beat the Texas Rangers his last time out. First pitch is slated for 1:10 CT.