HOUSTON -- The Astros got big blasts from Luis Valbuena and Evan Gattis, and capitalized on four Orioles errors, to edge Baltimore, 4-3, on Wednesday night at Minute Maid Park, securing a series win in the three-game set.Valbuena, who has homered on consecutive nights, hit a go-ahead solo homer in
HOUSTON -- The Astros got big blasts from Luis Valbuena and Evan Gattis, and capitalized on four Orioles errors, to edge Baltimore, 4-3, on Wednesday night at Minute Maid Park, securing a series win in the three-game set.
Valbuena, who has homered on consecutive nights, hit a go-ahead solo homer in the sixth inning off Orioles starter Tyler Wilson's 1-1 pitch. The Astros used Wilson's error in the fourth to score a pair of runs, with Gattis going deep immediately after the miscue with a two-run shot.
Astros starter Collin McHugh struck out a season-high 10 over 5 1/3 innings, allowing eight hits and a walk in a no-decision.
"We made a couple mistakes they made us pay for, a couple extra-base hits that come back to haunt you, but I think we did a pretty good job," McHugh said. "Overall, we executed our game plan well and came up with some timely hits and really put a complete game together."
Pat Neshek earned the win with two-thirds of an inning in relief of McHugh in the sixth, and Luke Gregerson closed out the game with a scoreless ninth for his 10th save.
Wilson was charged with four runs (three earned) over six innings. Jonathan Schoop, who hit second for the first time this season, drove in a run for the O's, who also scored on a wild pitch and an infield single.
"It's been a struggle, but that's kind of part of the deal," Mark Trumbo said of the Orioles' tough loss, which puts them 2-3 on their three-city road trip. "It's not going to go your way all the time, it's just one of those little ruts that we're in. We battle. We gave ourselves a chance to win, but it wasn't quite enough."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Gattis powers up: Gattis was behind the dish Wednesday night, spelling Jason Castro, and he continued his power surge of late. His lined homer barely cleared the high left-field wall and put the Astros up, 3-1. Gattis also added a double in the eighth inning. Since a Minor League stint to build up his catching, he's hit four homers and recorded a hit in seven of eight games.
"He's a real threat, he's a real danger, especially in this ballpark, when he doesn't have to try to do too much to pull," Houston manager A.J. Hinch said. "Anything he hits to left is essentially off that scoreboard or over. And that brings some comfort for him."
Astros' bullpen brilliance: The back-end of the Houston bullpen continues to clamp down. Ken Giles struck out the side in the seventh and now has nine strikeouts in his past 4 1/3 innings of work. After some early woes as an Astros, he's tossed nine consecutive scoreless outings, all against teams above .500. Will Harris's own shutout streak reached 20 appearances, as he furthered his All-Star case by wiggling out of a two-on, two-out jam in the eighth. Gregerson has alleviated some concerns that arose from blowing three saves in his previous six appearances.
"I just want the guys to get the outs when we need it. I'm a matchup-oriented manager, so I use the guys in a fairly consistently soft roles, roles that are in pencil. But I'm really happy with the depth of our 'pen, with the way they're pitching," Hinch said. "We don't necessarily have to have a weakness, and I like the fact that I've got options more than roles."
Errors, errors everywhere: Baltimore committed a season-high four errors in the first four innings in an unusually sloppy game. Wilson had two, including one that put a runner aboard before Gattis' blast, and Manny Machado had the other two, both in the first inning.
"There are a lot of things you can say as the difference in the game. But you look back at it, that is definitely one of them," Wilson said of not fielding the bunt before Gattis' homer. "You know, I make that out right there it's a tie ballgame if everything else goes according to plan. That's frustrating."
The K's won't go away: On the heels of a 19-strikeout game, the Orioles didn't exhibit any better patience on Wednesday. After McHugh fanned 10, the O's totalled 18 strikeouts, bringing their sum over the past four games to 58 strikeouts. Baltimore entered the day seventh in the American League in K's.
"It's something where they got a lot of want-to, but it's tough," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of his team's strikeouts. "They are pressing a little bit, trying to do too much. But I'm not going to start throwing our guys under the bus when we were talking a bunch of superlatives about them a very short time ago. I can't live in that world, and they know that. They are working on it. You're stating the obvious."
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Astros have struck out a combined 37 batters over the last two games, tying a franchise record last recorded in May 2003 against the Cubs.
"You're going to tailor your game to the lineup you face, to an extent. The last couple [games], the teams have struggled with breaking balls, so the key is going out there and throwing them for strikes when you want to, and balls when you want to. We've probably done as good a job the last two games as a team as we've done all season." -- McHugh, on why he and the staff have piled up strikeouts lately.
The Orioles challenged the safe call at second base on Gattis with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning. The on-field call was confirmed after a review of 1:15.
Orioles:Kevin Gausman gets the call in Thursday's 8:10 p.m. ET series finale. Despite pitching to a 2.70 ERA this season, Gausman is still searching for his first victory.
Astros:Lance McCullers gets the ball for Houston in Thursday's 7:10 p.m. CT series finale. The second-year hurler is making just his third start of the season after a shoulder issue in Spring Training caused him to miss the season's opening month. McCullers showed his rookie form his last time out, allowing just two earned runs and fanning seven in six innings against the Rangers.
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Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for MLB.com since 2010. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast.
Chris Abshire is a contributor to MLB.com based in Houston and covered the Astros on Wednesday.