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Astros rally, but O's halt win streak in wild 9th

@zachsilver
August 11, 2019

BALTIMORE -- For as wild a weekend as it was at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, there was plenty saved in store for as late as the ninth inning of Sunday’s series finale. Before Rio Ruiz walked it off with a two-run blast off Roberto Osuna to hand the Astros

BALTIMORE -- For as wild a weekend as it was at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, there was plenty saved in store for as late as the ninth inning of Sunday’s series finale.

Before Rio Ruiz walked it off with a two-run blast off Roberto Osuna to hand the Astros an 8-7 defeat, Michael Brantley’s wild trip around the bases seemed to have ignited an offense that was lacking, less than 24 hours after setting the franchise mark for runs in a game.

Box score

But Osuna stumbled on a day where he felt he simply didn’t have his best stuff, and the Astros were denied a ninth consecutive victory and series sweep in Baltimore.

“When you're playing great baseball it seems like the losses even hurt that much more," said Justin Verlander, who slogged through five innings while being tagged for four runs and nine hits.

“It was a winnable game,” added Astros manager AJ Hinch. “ … They just came up with the biggest swing of the day at the most important time.”

Osuna’s rough day

Staked to a 7-5 lead, the poor showing for Osuna began as early as the first pitch. Jace Peterson jumped on a middle-middle four-seam fastball and tucked it inside the left-field line for a double. He advanced on a groundout and eventually came home on a sacrifice fly by Chris Davis.

“He got ambushed on the first pitch of the inning,” Hinch said, “which we have seen before … and as the inning develops [he] gets himself into a little bit of trouble.”

Trouble was caused because Osuna hit Orioles catcher Chance Sisco a batter before the sac fly. It was the second time Sisco was hit on the day -- also in the third inning on a slider yanked by Verlander -- and came after a pair of Astros were hit themselves. The most recent was Alex Bregman, who was hit high on his left shoulder on a 96.9 mph fastball before ultimately staying in the game the half-inning prior.

Warnings were issued to both sides by home-plate umpire Sean Barber after Sisco was hit for the second time, and the Astros denied any intent.

“No, why would we hit somebody in a two-run game?” Hinch asked.

“No, absolutely not,” Osuna added. “I didn't have the stuff, I was wild, I missed a lot of pitches. Most of them were in the location that I didn't want. It was one of those days.”

Two batters after the hit-by-pitch -- and one after the Davis sac fly -- Ruiz stepped in and sent everyone home with his 417-foot blast to right. It came on the seventh pitch of the at-bat and on the sixth changeup Ruiz saw from Osuna. He fouled off the two prior before finally getting his pitch to hit.

“We went too many changeups there,” said catcher Robinson Chirinos. “That can be my fault.”

“The guys did a great job coming back and getting the lead and expecting me to get the job done,” Osuna said. “Not being able to do that is always a bad thing. I'm going to shake it off and get ready for tomorrow.”

Brantley's clutch triple nearly picks up Verlander

The rush of excitement for the Orioles came only after one for the Astros. Down to their final three outs, Brantley came up to bat with George Springer and Jose Altuve having opened the ninth inning with back-to-back singles.

Brantley turned on a 97.7 mph inside fastball from Orioles closer Mychal Givens and tucked it inside the right-field line and into the corner. He had himself a triple but was able to come all the way around in 15.8 seconds thanks to a throwing error by Anthony Santander.

“It’s just unfortunate with Brantley,” said the Orioles’ Ruiz. “He’s an All-Star hitter right there, and he put bat on the ball and found a hole and put them ahead.”

At the time, it seemed like it might have been enough to pick up Verlander’s abbreviated outing. The righty gave up nine hits -- which set a season high -- and four runs -- which tied a season high -- despite the 11 strikeouts.

When Verlander struck out Santander to lead off the fifth for his 10th punchout of the afternoon, it gave him five consecutive games with double-digit strikeouts for the first time in his career. It was also the first time an Astro accomplished the game streak since Randy Johnson in ’98 and J.R. Richard in a series of games that spanned ’79-80.

“It’s who he is,” Chirinos said.

Verlander was forced to throw 73 pitches in three innings before departing with 109 in five. The Orioles fouled off 25 of Verlander’s pitches on the day. His slider, which has induced a 39.7 whiff percentage in ’19, second only to his 41.2 percent in ’12, was swung and missed at just five times Sunday.

“I never really felt comfortable,” Verlander said. “It was in and out a lot, a batter here and there. I was fighting myself the whole game.”

By the final at-bat, it seemed apparent the Astros were fighting themselves, too.