Seventh-inning rally delivers O's fourth straight win
Schoop, Markakis combine for pivotal RBIs to back Chen's fourth W
BALTIMORE -- Jonathan Schoop is slowly becoming more comfortable in the Major Leagues. He's now playing second base, a more natural position for him, and the 22-year-old keeps finding ways to help the Orioles on both offense and defense.
The two double plays Schoop helped turn Friday night were important, but his tie-breaking single in the seventh inning meant even more. Nick Markakis followed that RBI single with a run-scoring double for a key insurance run as the Orioles stretched their winning streak to four with a 4-3 victory over the Astros on Friday night at Oriole Park.
Schoop played a lot of third base in the first month and struggled at times on defense. But he's settled down in the past several days since spending more time at second, with Manny Machado returning to third. The rookie second baseman now has a four-game hitting streak, but he's also knocked in runs in three straight games.
His average has moved up eight points (.235) in the last week, and Schoop said there's no doubt he's settling in at this level.
"I've got a month here already," Schoop said. "I have a lot more to go. Every day, you try to get better. I'm trying to learn as much as I can."
Orioles manager Buck Showalter said he likes Schoop's attitude and how the rookie handles whatever comes at him.
"Jon smiles and doesn't take himself too seriously, but he's a competitive guy," Showalter said. "He wants to do the right thing. That's something that's real admirable. He hasn't let one at-bat affect him so far."
But Schoop's seventh-inning at-bat was one that made him smile afterwards. The game was tied at 2 when J.J. Hardy greeted relief pitcher Jerome Williams (1-2) with a double to start the inning. He moved to third on a Steve Clevenger groundout and scored when Schoop lined a two-out single to center.
Schoop then scored an insurance run moments later when Markakis doubled to deep center, his third hit of the night. He finished 3-for-4 and extended his hitting streak to 16 games.
All of that offense helped Wei-Yin Chen (4-2) earn his fourth win in six starts as the left-hander gave up two runs on five hits in seven innings. He struck out four and walked just one, escaping from a few jams in the middle of the game.
"I [wanted] to keep the ball down," Chen said through an interpreter. "We had a meeting before the game, and that was the point I tried to focus on, and I was able to do it, and I was able to get a good result out of it."
Darren O'Day came on in the eighth to retire the Astros (11-25) in order. Tommy Hunter entered in the ninth and earned his 11th save, although it wasn't an easy task.
Hunter gave up a double to Dexter Fowler and walked pinch-hitter Marc Krauss to start the ninth. Fowler stole third on the last pitch to Krauss to put runners on first and third with no outs. But Hunter then got Chris Carter to ground into a double play, which scored Fowler, before striking out George Springer to end the game.
The Astros took an early lead when former Oriole L.J. Hoes lined a sacrifice fly to right for a 1-0 edge in the top of the third.
Steve Pearce and Machado hit solo homers off Houston starter Scott Feldman in the bottom half of that inning to give the Orioles (19-14) a 2-1 lead. Feldman, who returned from the disabled list to make the start, hadn't given up a homer this season coming into the game.
Pearce sent Feldman's second pitch of the inning just over the left-field fence for his second homer in as many games. Machado blasted a two-out shot to left-center for his first homer and RBI of this season.
"I missed my spot to Pearce," Feldman said. "You're going to miss your spot sometimes. The one to Machado was just a dumb pitch, to me. That's the one that's going to bug me until my next start probably."
Chen escaped Houston threats in both the fifth and sixth. In the sixth, Hoes singled and Jose Altuve reached on a Machado error to put two on with no outs. Chen then retired the next three batters and kept the 2-1 lead.
Chen got two breaks in that inning. Schoop caught and then dropped a soft liner from Jonathan Villar at second. The umpires ruled it an out, saying that he had secured the ball. Chen then fielded a Fowler grounder and threw out Altuve on a force play at second. Hardy dropped the ball after catching it as he attempted a double play, and the umpires also ruled that an out.
Houston tied the game in the seventh when Carter lined a leadoff homer off of Chen. But Schoop made sure the tie didn't last long.