Alec Asher can't stop Astros bashers
(c) Associated Press
The Astros turned in a six-run second inning Sunday afternoon and cruised the rest of the way to complete a three-game sweep of the visiting Orioles with a big 8-4 win. Houston overcame an early deficit, helping Lance McCullers get his sixth victory of the season.
McCullers got off to an inauspicious start when Baltimore's Seth Smith led off the game with a grounder to the left of the shift and Jonathan Schoop followed with a fly ball that settled into the second row of the Crawford Boxes to make it 2-0 Orioles before a crowd of 34,720 could get settled in.
Some sloppy defense by the Astros in the second inning, including a throwing error by McCullers, helped the O's extend the lead to 3-0.
But this game would be decided in the bottom of the second and the Astros offense would be the ones doing the deciding. Carlos Correa got things started with a single and Carlos Beltran worked a walk from Orioles starter Alec Asher. After Evan Gattis struck out, Marwin Gonzalez and Yuli Gurriel cracked consecutive doubles to tie the score. Nori Aoki grounded out and then George Springer launched a home run to left-center to give the Astros a 5-3 lead.
Josh Reddick followed Springer's fantastic feat with a croud-pleasing line drive triple to rightfield to keep the momentum going. Jose Altuve drove Reddick home with a ground ball single up the middle.
It took an outstanding defensive play by Manny Machado to rob Correa of a hit to get Asher out of the inning with no further damage.
Ubaldo Jimenez replaced Asher on the mound to start the third and the Astros offense didn't miss a beat. Houston's number 8 and 9 hitters, Gurriel and Aoki, came through with two-out hits helping the 'Stros put two more runs on the board.
Jimenez gave manager Buck Showalter what he needed, holding the Astros scoreless the rest of the way. But McCullers and the Houston bullpen were almost as stingy in the run prevention department.
McCullers took care of six innings, allowing just the three early runs and fanning eight batters along the way. Michael Feliz, James Hoyt, and Tony Sipp turned in one relief inning apiece with the only blip on the radar being Mark Trumbo's solo homer off Hoyt in the eighth.
Gurriel, Gonzalez, and Correa paced Houston's 11-hit attack with two hits apiece. The win was the Astros' fourth straight and moved them ten games ahead of the nearest competitor in the A.L. West.
While the news on the field continues to be great, the Astros got some bad news before the game when it was announced that starting pitcher Charlie Morton would be missing a significant amount of time with a strained lat. Similar injuries have usually kept pitchers out of action for more than three months, meaning Morton is unlikely to return until September.
The Astros now head out on the road for a ten-game road trip that commences with a 1:10 Memorial Day clash with the Twins in Minneapolis. Brad Peacock gets his second starting assignment of the season after tuning in an outstanding effort in his first. Ervin Santana gets the nod for the Twins. Santana has been on a roll so far this season, posting a 7-2 record and 1.80 ERA while holding his opponents to a .134 batting average.
- Greg Thurston