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Orioles lose 2-1 to Astros in pitcher’s duel

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David Hess pitched a gem but was matched by Houston’s Gerrit Cole, and the Orioles were undone by timely hitting.

MLB: Houston Astros at Baltimore Orioles Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The last time the Orioles faced the Astros was all the way back at the beginning of April. In fact, it was the second series of the 2018 season for the Birds. Back then, they were swept in a three game series in Houston.

It wouldn’t get any easier tonight, considering the Orioles had to face the Astros’ Gerrit Cole. The right-hander came into the game with 272 strikeouts on the year, the second most in the American League, behind only his teammate Justin Verlander. Cole is also among the top ten in the AL in wins, innings pitched, ERA, WHIP, BAA and WAR.

In his first at-bat of the night, Adam Jones got a prolonged ovation from the Orioles faithful at Camden Yards. He would get a similar response in each subsequent at-bat. With Jonathan Villar at second base and two outs in the first, Jones reached for a ball on the outside of the plate and flicked it down the first base line for an RBI double. 1-0, Orioles.

Just earlier today, Jones was voted Most Valuable Oriole for the 2018 season. At the start of play, he had a .281/.313/.419 batting line with 33 doubles, 15 home runs, 62 RBI and seven steals.

All things considered, it was a real pitcher’s duel on Friday night at Camden Yards. Cole threw five consecutive scoreless innings after allowing a lone run in the first.

David Hess breezed through the first two innings, collecting three strikeouts among seven batters faced with the only baserunner in that time being Jose Altuve in the first.

But the Orioles’ right-hander ran into some trouble in the third, allowing a leadoff single and then hitting a batter to put runners on first and second. But DJ Stewart made the first out of the inning on a catch in deep left field and threw out Martin Maldonado trying to advance to third for a double play. It was Stewart’s first career outfield assist.

Stewart showed his ability in the outfield several times in this game, ranging in the gap far to his left and breaking back well on the ball.

Fast forward a couple of innings and Hess had thrown five scoreless on just 56 pitches, allowing only two hits with no walks and four strikeouts. The Orioles were still winning, 1-0.

The first two outs of the sixth came quickly on a fly out to the wall in right and a sharp ground out to short. But then Josh Reddick hit a home run onto the flag court to tie the game, 1-1. Hess had started his third time through the Astros batting order just one batter before Reddick.

The right-hander labored a bit in the seventh, walking the second and fourth batters he faced, putting runners on first and second with two outs. But the inning ended on a weak ground ball to second. After seven innings of one-run ball, Hess’ pitch count stood at 91.

On the Astros side, Cole exited the game after six innings and 86 pitches. He gave up five hits, one run and one walk while striking out four batters. Tony Sipp followed Cole to the mound for the Astros.

The Orioles replaced Hess with left-hander Tanner Scott in the eighth. Hess’ final pitching line was seven innings, three hits, one earned run, two walks, four strikeouts and one home run. The seven innings matched a career high for the righty, the first time coming back on August 22 against the Toronto Blue Jays.

After a pair of walks by Scott in the eighth, an infield hit to Jace Peterson at third loaded the bases with one out. Marwin Gonzalez singled to left field, giving the Astros a 2-1 lead and driving Scott from the game. Ryan Meisinger came on and induced a ground ball double play to end the inning.

The O’s went down quietly in seventh and eighth, held hitless by Sipp and Collin McHugh. Roberto Osuna came on to pitch the ninth and Adam Jones put a charge into the hometown fans with a fly ball deep to left field, but it died on the warning track.

With two outs, Stewart blooped a single into right center field and pinch runner John Andreoli advanced to second on a wild pitch. But the game ended with a spectacular diving catch on a sinking line drive by Jake Marisnick in center field.

Baltimore was 1-for-4 with runners in scoring position on the night, leaving five men on base. The Astros, on the other hand, were 2-for-6 with RISP and left six runners on base. Tanner Scott took the loss after allowing one run on two hits and two walks in 0.1 innings.

The Orioles are now 0-4 against the Astros in 2018 with three games left to go. Tomorrow will be a straight doubleheader at Camden Yards, with Dylan Bundy versus Justin Verlander in game one and Yefry Ramirez versus Dallas Keuchel in game two.