The Orioles entered Friday night’s game against the Astros riding high following one impressive four-game sweep against the Texas Rangers. However as soon as this game began, it became clear that the Astros are most definitely not the Rangers. The best team in the American League entered the night with a 63-32 record for good reason, and they showcased why they’re World Series favorites on this night.
Below, the details of an eight-inning one-sided affair and one wild ninth inning that saw the Birds almost eek out a Friday night win.
The Astros made a statement on offense early courtesy of some command troubles from Ubaldo Jimenez, the night's starter. A Carlos Beltran RBI single scored Jose Altuve to plate the game's first run, but the major damage in the first inning came off of the bat of Yuli Gurriel.
On a 1-1 offering, Gurriel took a hanging slider, belted it to left field and gave it just enough of a ride to squeak over the outfield wall. Trey Mancini gave it a look, but the hard-hit liner accomplished what it needed to for Houston. The round-tripper made it 3-0 Astros in the top of the first, damage that would be extended just an inning later. Clearly, this wasn't one of Ubaldo's finest nights in an Orioles uniform.
As Mike Fiers shut down the O's lineup the first time through, the Astros offense made its weekend entrance to Camden Yards rather well-known. In the second, following an Alex Bregman single, Colin Moran crushed a fastball to the gap that got beyond the diving Joey Rickard in right. The ball rolled all the way to the wall, easily scoring Bregman and sending Moran to third with a stand-up triple. He’d, too, score on an Altuve groundout, giving the ‘Stros a 5-0 lead before the Birds could make it to the dish for their second time through.
For Jimenez, it was a simple case of missing spots against a rather stacked lineup. He failed to establish any sense of momentum early — as has been the case for much of the year — and it simply cost him against some of the best hitters in the American League. Not exactly a surprise in terms of what was expected entering the game, but demoralizing for the offense to watch on this Friday night.
Ruben Tejada, of all the potential threats in the lineup, did contribute with the first run of the ballgame on the Orioles side in the bottom of the third. He led off the frame with a single, giving Jonathan Schoop an opportunity with two outs to drive in his 64th RBI of the year.
Schoop didn’t exactly get great wood on the bloop single, but it did the trick to end the threat of a shutout from Fiers. He took an inside pitch and dropped it into right field, a good enough result to make it 5-1 and give the crowd a little something to cheer about.
Jimenez ended up tossing three consecutive scoreless innings and appeared poised to potentially end his outing on somewhat of a high note, but Brian McCann made the most of his trip to the dish in the sixth and effectively ended Ubaldo’s night. He crushed a solo homer to lead off the inning, the 10th hit and sixth earned run against Jimenez on the night.
After collecting one more out, his night ended with one rough final line: 5.1, 10 H, 6 ER, 1 BB, 5 K. His season ERA is now 7.19 through 92.2 innings.
The game was (at the time) all but closed out when Jimenez left the game considering the way Fiers was tossing in this one, but Bleier’s entrance didn’t exactly do Showalter and Co. any favors. With two outs, the reliever allowed three consecutive singles that led to a 7-1 Houston lead — insignificant in the final score, but simply yet another sequence that handed the Astros momentum that was left up for grabs.
(Side note here: if you’re looking for a positive angle to emerge from this game, search for Chris Davis’ incredible diving play to end that sixth inning. It was a gem, further proving that he doesn’t nearly receive enough credit for how impressive he is on defense at first.)
The game certainly looked to be wrapped up after the mid-way point of the night, but things became extremely interesting after Mark Trumbo tacked on a run in the eighth; there truly was a bit of mini-magic in the ninth inning against Houston reliever James Hoyt.
After Tejada (walk) and Hyun-Soo Kim (double) reached to start the frame, Adam Jones took a first-pitch breaking ball and roped it to the left-center gap, clearing the bases and making it 8-4. It seemed like a nice side-note in an otherwise uneventful game, but Schoop had a bit of magic to unleash in his bat to provide for the faithful fans still standing at OPACY.
Following a Manny Machado single, Schoop went opposite field and with one swing of the bat made this an immediate must-watch, one-run game. Against a first pitch fastball, he muscled his 20th of the year, suddenly shifting this game into somewhat of a winnable one for the Orioles.
With Davis and Trumbo up there was unquestionably an opportunity to steal a win — but at the end of the day, the result this game probably deserved ended up taking place.
Davis was out on a bunt (one that attempted to beat the shift) and Houston brought in closer Ken Giles to strike out Trumbo and extinguish the flames that were threatening.
It went down as a loss in the standings, but there’s no doubt that this one was worth watching until the finish. That’s a whole lot more than was expected after the first few innings on this Friday night.
Tomorrow, it’s Chris Tillman taking the mound against Collin McHugh, who will be making his season debut for the Astros. First pitch for the Saturday clash will be at 7:05.