Fluke injury cues epic go-ahead HR by Astro

July 23rd, 2017

BALTIMORE -- dug into the batter's box against Orioles reliever in an incredibly unfortunate circumstance Saturday night. And then he did something the first-place Astros haven't been able to do all year.

Gonzalez, taking the place of an injured , worked an 0-1 count for eight more pitches and delivered a decisive three-run, pinch-hit homer in the sixth inning to lift Houston (65-32) to an 8-4 series win over the Orioles.

• Moran hit in face by foul ball

"Yeah, the good part of it was I was going to pinch-hit him later in the inning, potentially for [Jake] Marisnick," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "So he was down in the cage getting loose and getting some swings, which is helpful. But it's not an easy at-bat. That delay for everybody is a little bit tough and takes a little bit of the adrenaline and the excitement out of the situation, and then he put a jolt in our dugout by hitting the ball out of the ballpark."

The two-out homer, the first pinch-hit blast by an Astro all year, was part of a crazy five-run frame that also saw Yuli Gurriel -- fresh off a career-high four-hit night -- go deep.

"Sure, it changes the tempo but you deal with changes in a game and a season," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of Gonzalez's homer. "That's what you do because it doesn't always go, tempo and scripted. It's the adjustments you make every night and Darren's real good at that. He threw a lot of good pitches to him. They did a lot of things to set that inning up, too."

Gurriel's two-run homer, which was initially ruled a double and overturned after a crew-chief review, chased Orioles starter Chris Tillman from the game. also homered off Tillman to break a scoreless tie in the fifth.

The victory was the Astros' eighth consecutive win over the Orioles, who have been unable to find a way to beat Houston this season. The O's struggles against the Astros go back deeper than that, as Baltimore has lost 15 of its last 18 games against them, with Saturday's loss further distancing hopes of making a run in the American League Wild Card race.

Down, 1-0, the Orioles took the lead on a pair of two-run fifth-inning homers, first from and then by All-Star . Jones' go-ahead blast, which came with heavy rain, was a straight shot to left field. Schoop went deep after Manny Machado's single, chasing Astros starter from his season debut, which came after a 58-minute rain delay.

"I don't want the last inning to take away how well [McHugh] threw the ball," Hinch said. "You know, at the end, he left a couple fastballs in the zone and he was behind in the count to two pretty good home run hitters in a home run ballpark, so it's unfortunate that his outing ended that way because he pitched extraordinarily well for the first four innings."

McHugh, who had been sidelined with elbow impingement, went 4 2/3 innings and gave up four runs on four hits and two walks, including the pair of homers. Like Tillman, he took a scoreless outing into the fifth. Tillman -- who entered the game with a 7.20 ERA -- ran into trouble again in the sixth, giving way to O'Day, who allowed a pair of first-pitch singles to and Evan Gattis before Moran dug in for a two-out at-bat.

"I feel like I still had control of that ballgame," said Tillman of exiting after Gurriel's hit was ruled a homer. "I think that it's not what I think. It's what other people think. You've got to convince the hitters, too, and at the same time I really haven't earned it, to tell you the truth. You've got to earn that, the right to keep the ball in that situation, and I haven't."


Moran hurt, Marwin picks him up: There was a scary moment in the sixth inning as rookie Moran fouled the first pitch he saw into his left eye and dropped to the ground. Moran, immediately bruised and bleeding, couldn't stand on his own as athletic trainers came out to help. After a short delay, he was carted off the field -- still alert -- with a round of applause from the crowd at Camden Yards. He was replaced by Gonzalez, who worked O'Day for eight pitches in an at-bat that culminated in the decisive homer.

"That was a scary moment for us," Gonzalez said. "We still don't know how bad or how good he is. I just focused to have a good at-bat and I was trying to bring in the runner on second and tie the game, but I got a homer and it was even better for the team."

Schoop goes deep: Schoop's two-run blast capped a four-run fifth inning and marked his third consecutive game with a homer as the O's second baseman continues his career year. Schoop has a team-leading 21 homers and 69 RBIs, which is good for third-most in the American League.

"I think everybody takes a little extra satisfaction when Jon is doing well because he deserves it. Well, you don't always deserve it, but he gives himself a chance," Showalter said. "So to see Jon continue to get better every year and learn from things that he knows he can get better at. He's very approachable. You never have to worry if he's in a mood or something like that. Jon is very approachable and coachable and alway looking for help and very respectful of anyone who is trying to help him."


"Yeah, it was tough. I hope [Moran is] OK. But I don't think that really affected me as a pitcher. It's easy to make an excuse. I came in and made a couple poor pitches, got guys on base and then I had to be perfect. It was a tough at-bat [with Gonzalez]. He fouled off some really good pitches until he got a bad one. Did a hell of a job keeping it fair. I thought I had him set up for a pitch there and I didn't execute, so I just made a mistake. It's really unacceptable for a team that's kind of fighting for every win. I just didn't get the job done." -- O'Day, on Moran's injury and Gonzalez's at-bat

"You hate for a guy like that, especially because he's swinging the bat well right now, but more than that, just as a teammate and a member of his baseball family, that we obviously wish him a quick recovery. That's hard for me to watch things like that. I had to look away because I don't like seeing things like that. We got a great training staff, top-notch staff that helps with recovery, so hopefully it's not too bad and we can see him back out here real soon." -- McHugh, on Moran's injury


Astros: will take the mound for the Astros in Sunday's matinee against the Orioles. McCullers is 1-1 in his last four starts since coming off the disabled list June 24. In that span, McCullers has an ERA of 6.05, allowing 15 runs (13 earned) and 25 hits in his last 19 1/3 innings. First pitch is slated for 12:35 p.m. CT.

Orioles: The Orioles will send to the mound for Sunday's 1:35 p.m. ET series finale against Houston. Bundy is fresh off being a part of the Orioles' first back-to-back quality starts since June 1 and June 2 after going six innings, giving up one run on four hits against the Rangers.

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