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Astros 2, Orioles 1: Gonzalez shines but bats continue to slump

Miguel Gonzalez took a no hitter into the sixth inning but the Orioles offense could provide no support as the Birds lose their fourth in a row and fall below .500.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

How "Orioles" can a game get? They just can't seem to get all three phases of the game to work at one time. Tonight, it was the offense's turn to stink up the joint and waste one of Miguel Gonzalez's finest starts of the year.

The bats faced off with lefty Brett Oberholtzer, who came into the game with an ERA of 5.32. He was 1-6 with a batting average against of .306. They did exactly what Oriole hitters have done all season against below average starters, they made him look like an all-star. He went seven innings, struck out just one, but walked no one.

Ah, walks; the stat that has traumatized Baltimore bats nearly every game this season. They have the fewest in all of baseball and really, everyone is to blame. Their inability to take pitches as a unit is what allows these mediocre pitchers get so deep into ball games. It's easy for most bullpens to only get six outs. When they are stretched to get between nine and 12 outs, they get exposed. But the Orioles rarely get to that point with opponent's relief pitchers.

For once, the O's started off the scoring in the second inning. Adam Jones led off the top half with a double to left field. Following a Chris Davis fly out, J.J. Hardy hit a sharp ground ball down the third base line for a single. It scored Jones. 1-0 Orioles.

And that was all she wrote on the lineup for the night. Well, unless you like watching this: groundout, groundout, fly out, groundout, pop get the idea. As Buck said after the game, a "whole lot of weak contact".

On the other hand, Gonzalez was marvelous on the mound against a hot Houston offense. I mean, Mike Bordick called him "awesome" a half-dozen times. So, you know it was good.

He stifled the Astros for six innings. The first five were hitless, until Jose Altuve got an infield single on a weak chopper to shortstop that he used his wheels to beat out.

As with many past Gonzo outings, he petered out in the seventh inning. Matt Dominguez hit a lead off double. After Chris Carter struck out, Alex Presley singled to right field. Nick Markakis rifled the ball home. A charging Caleb Joseph grabbed the toss and threw it to Hardy covering second to nab Presley trying to stretch it to a double. Dominguez had stopped at third. For a moment, it seemed the Orioles would get out of the inning unscatched.

Unfortunately, Robbie Grossman had something to say about that. He came up and doubled over Steve Pearce's head in left, scoring Dominguez. All tied 1-1. It was a tough ball that is going to be second-guessed on sports talk radio and in the papers tomorrow. Pearce's inexperience in the field may have factored into it falling in, but the regular left fielder, Nelson Cruz, rarely looks graceful out there either. David Lough likely would have caught it, but his bat doesn't provide the thump that Pearce's does.

Jonathan Villar would follow it up with a double of his own. This was of the ground-rule variety to right-center, and it scored Grossman from second. 2-1 Astros. This would be the final blow for Gonzalez as he would get the hook and be replaced by Darren O'Day.

This one really can't be put on Buck for leaving him in too long. The righty was in the eighties in terms of pitch count entering the inning. And it shouldn't be put on Gonzo either. Giving up two runs in six and two-thirds innings should be more than enough for this Oriole offense to win with, especially against a pitcher like Oberholtzer, but it wasn't meant to be.

They showed some life again in the top of the eighth. Joseph walked with two outs and Markakis followed with a single. Pearce sent a ball to left field, which looked better off the bat than it actually was, that ended up caught by Grossman.

It was more of the same from a team that can't seem to put it all together and deserves to be right where they are, a game under .500.

But, I'm an optimist. The bright side here is that Miguel Gonzalez looked great on the mound. Sure, it was against one of the worst teams in baseball, but these are major leaguers for a reason. And he interrupted George Springer's streak of home runs. He didn't even get a hit! Woo! Seriously, he has turned things around in his last four starts, going 6.2, six, six, and seven innings, allowing eight total runs, and going 2-1 in that span

Yeah, Pearce looked a bit turned around on that game-tying double to left. But he also made a really nice diving catch on Dominguez in the fourth inning. At the time, it preserved a no hitter and kept the potential tying run from scoring.

And how about those uniforms? The boys looked dapper out there with those "B"s on their caps that Showalter loves so much.

And hey, Matt Wieters threw with no pain today and plans to do so again soon. Things can only go up from here. Baseball is not a game for the faint of heart. Things can turn on the dime and, for the sake of all here at Camden Chat, I hope that change happens soon.

The Birds next chance to get back to .500 comes tomorrow against these same Astros. It's a Satuday matinee, 4:10. The O's send Chris Tillman to the mound. Who know's what you will get there. He will face Houston's best starter, and another lefty, Dallas Keuchel. In his last three starts he has tossed a total of 26.2 innings and given up only four runs. Oh man, forget what I said. Things could get ugly, bird watchers.