HOUSTON -- The Orioles’ mantra this year is to prove people wrong and create “chaos” -- the word on many of the players' shirts this weekend. They weren’t able to complete the sweep after dropping the series finale, 3-1, to the Astros, but they took two of three games against the team with the best record in the American League.
Baltimore had an impressive month of August, with a 16-9 record and run differential of plus-21. Against the first-place Astros, the task was going to be daunting, but the Orioles stepped up to the challenge and left Houston with an impressive series win.
“I’m really happy with the team’s effort this series,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said.
Here are the main takeaways from the three-game series in Houston:
Led by their starters
The Orioles’ starting pitching has led the way since Aug. 21, posting the second-best ERA in the Major Leagues over that span (1.59 ERA). The young pitchers stepped up to the challenge and limited the Astros' offense, which ranks third in the AL in runs scored.
Austin Voth, Sunday’s starter, continued the string of strong pitching, allowing just one run and one hit in six innings. It concluded what has been an impressive weekend for the starters (Kyle Bradish, Dean Kremer and Voth), who combined to allow a total of just two runs and six hits in 21 2/3 innings.
“They didn't miss very often,” Astros third baseman Alex Bregman said. “Tip your hat to them. Offensively, we were looking for good pitches to hit, and they were throwing pitcher's pitches and keeping us off balance all series. It was one of those series."
Collectively, the starters issued five walks in three games and generated a total of 33 whiffs -- Bradish with 17, Kremer with six and Voth with 10. The starters were in control when the Astros swung the bat, too.
“We pitched so well,” Hyde said. “We had a bad inning in the seventh today, but besides that, our pitching has been outstanding all series long. This series, the pitching carried us to the two wins.”
The offense producing just enough runs
The Orioles' offense has picked up recently, especially in August, when they have slashed .251/.319/.416 with a .735 OPS. The club was able to generate offense -- a total of 20 hits in the three-game series in Houston -- but didn’t break through in an offensive barrage, by any means.
The Orioles scored a total of six runs in the series, with five of the six runs coming via the homer. Outfielder Cedric Mullins extended his hitting streak to 11 games, during which he’s 13-for-43 (.302), but there remain spots in the lineup that continue to struggle. First baseman Ryan Mountcastle is in an 0-for-14 slump.
“We got to start swinging the bat a little bit,” Hyde said. “Offensively, we need to score more runs moving forward.”
The Orioles understood the difficulty of facing the Astros and were going to use this weekend as a big test. It is fair to say they passed the test and remain squarely in the playoff chase, as they sit 1 1/2 games behind the Blue Jays for the final Wild Card spot.
The Orioles proved against the Astros that they can handle a team that has a lot of playoff experience and when they put everything together, they can perhaps make some noise in the postseason.
“Our team is starting to show what we could do in the playoffs,” outfielder Austin Hays said. “The guys being out there every day and making adjustments got us to this point of the season. All you can ask for at the start of the season is just to have a chance at the end of the year.
“I feel like our team is starting to fire on all cylinders.”