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Orioles Defense Stifles Astros, Comeback Comes up Short. 5-4 Orioles Win

Astros take the series. Altuve was 4-5 with a home run.

MLB: Houston Astros at Baltimore Orioles Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Although the crowds weren’t huge for this weekday series, on the field, the Astros and Orioles played with playoff intensity. And who knows, this series could be a prelude to playoff action this October.

If so, the Astros put the Orioles on notice that the defending champions cannot be taken lightly, winning two of the three games in the series. But today, the Astros' comeback bid came up just short, thanks to some great Orioles defense and a little Astros bad luck.

The Astros opened their scoring with a solo home run in the second inning by Yainer Diaz, starting at catcher.

Meanwhile, the Orioles nibbled at Astros starter Hunter Brown, who managed to pitch a quality start, allowing three runs in six innings.

Quality start, that is, until Dusty Baker kept him in for the seventh.

Adley Rutschman greeted Brown rudely with a leadoff homer in the first. However, Brown recovered and held the Os until the third, when Ramon Urias tripled, followed by a James McCann single.

In the sixth, the Orioles added another run when Rutschman singled home McCann, who led off with a double.

Still, the Astros were within striking distance, especially after Jose Altuve’s home run in the seventh.

But the Orioles unloaded in the bottom of the seventh. Ryan O’Hearn doubled to leadoff (the Orioles opened four innings with leadoff extra-base hits) and scored on a Ryan Mountcastle homer. When Adam Frazier singled, Baker removed Brown in favor of Phil Maton. Frazier was thrown out stealing as Austin Hays struck out, the second strike-em-out, throw-em-out play by Astros catcher Diaz (and his third assist in three steal attempts)

The inning ended with a spectacular play by Alex Bregman at third on Urias.

The Astros added a run in the eighth with a two-out single by Kyle Tucker, an error allowing Jon Singleton to occupy first and sending Tucker to second, and an RBI bloop single by Mauricio Dubon.

Orioles defense robbed the Astros of an inordinate number of hits today. Yainer Diaz had two at-bats with EVs greater than 105 MPH with xBAs of .570 and .740 that ended in outs. Similarly, with runners in scoring position, Yordan Alvarez had two at-bats with xBAs of .700 and .830. Here’s the one that he hit at 115 MPH.

This play set the tone of the game, robbing Altuve of a lead-off double.

In the ninth inning, the Orioles brought their ace closer, Felix Bautista, to save the game. Yes, the same Bautista that surrendered the grand slam Tuesday night.

He allowed a one-out Altuve double and a walk to Bregman. Tucker came up with a chance to put the team on top just like Tuesday, but instead, he walked, loading the bases for Yainer Diaz. This time a rocket shot by Diaz got by the glove of third baseman Urias, scoring Altuve. If Urias hadn’t put a glove on the ball, it would have been a tied score.

Unfortunately, Jon Singleton popped out, ending the game with the Stros down by one run, 5-4, and ending their hope for a sweep against the Os.

But yet again, the Astros proved you can’t quit on them because they never quit on themselves. Sometimes you just don’t get the breaks.

Jose Altuve was 4-5 for the day, and if not for the impossible play by Urias in the first, he would have been 5-5.

The Astros as a team had an xBA of .304 for the game, compared to the Orioles' .250. They had seven batted balls with a range of xBAs from .490 to .830 that were outs. They left 11 runners on base and were 2-8 with runners in scoring position.

The Astros behind Justin Verlander take on Shohei Ohtani at MMP tomorrow, 7:10 CT.

Box score HERE.