Orioles hold on to beat Astros, 5-4, extending MLB’s longest active streak without being swept: ‘We do fight’

Brandon Hyde couldn’t believe it.

How was Kyle Tucker up again?

When the Houston Astros’ cleanup hitter stepped to the plate in the eighth inning Thursday, the Orioles’ manager assumed they wouldn’t have to face him in the ninth — two days after Tucker hit a go-ahead grand slam off closer Félix Bautista in the ninth.

It wasn’t just Tucker who Hyde was perplexed about seeing again. With two outs in the eighth and the Astros’ No. 6 hitter up, it appeared as if Baltimore could make it through the ninth without facing each batter in the heart of the Astros’ order: Nos. 2, 3, 4 hitters Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez and Tucker. Instead, Houston mounted a comeback, bringing the terrifying trio that bats after leadoff hitter José Altuve to the plate in the ninth for the fifth time of the afternoon.

“I think Bregman and Tucker and Alvarez hit every inning,” Hyde joked. “I was going to check to see if they were hitting out of order, because I feel like they hit eight times a game.”

Unlike Tuesday, Bautista bent against the top of Houston’s order but didn’t break. After allowing a run and loading the bases to bring the go-ahead run into scoring position, Bautista got Jon Singleton to pop out with the bases loaded to seal the Orioles’ 5-4 win at Camden Yards.

“I thought we had it the whole way,” Hyde quipped.

Coming off back-to-back ugly losses to the defending World Series-champion Astros, the Orioles avoided a sweep for the 76th straight series — the fourth-longest streak in MLB history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Baltimore hasn’t been swept since May 2022, the longest active streak in the majors.

Starting pitcher Dean Kremer continued his success against Houston (66-50) with seven innings of two-run ball, four of his defenders supported him with stellar defense and Adley Rutschman and Ryan Mountcastle both homered.

At 71-44, Baltimore will begin its nine-game West Coast trip Friday in Seattle at least two games ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays for the top spot in the American League.

“Proud of our club,” Hyde said. “We do fight. They battle, they scrap. They’re pulling for each other.”

The opening batter in each half of the first inning featured impressive feats from Orioles players.

Third baseman Ramón Urías made a diving play at third base to steal an extra-base hit from Altuve to kickstart the stellar defense behind Kremer (11-4). To begin the bottom half, Rutschman hit a leadoff home run off Astros starter Hunter Brown that narrowly cleared Camden Yards’ rarely conquered left field wall to become just the second left-handed batter to do so since the strange dimensions were put in place last year.

After Urías, left fielder Ryan O’Hearn, second baseman Adam Frazier and first baseman Mountcastle all made web gems of their own. O’Hearn, a first baseman playing in front of Oriole Park’s left field wall for the first time, made a leaping grab on the warning track to open the fifth inning. Frazier then ended the frame by stealing an RBI hit away from Alvarez, snagging a 115.2 mph ground ball on a dive.

“Exceptional, all the way around the field,” Kremer said of his defense. “Ramón, Ryan — both Ryans, O’Hearn and Mounty — and Frazier unbelievable play, Hays everywhere. They’re a special group to have behind you.

“As a staff, we know we’ve got some of the best defense in the league. We don’t have to be perfect. You just throw the ball in the zone, and our guys will make plays.”

In the seventh, Mountcastle came off the bag on an errant throw from Kremer and acrobatically tagged Jake Meyers. The next batter, Altuve, hit a home run that put the Astros down 3-2. Houston’s first run off Kremer came on a solo homer from Yainer Díaz in the second. Kremer has allowed 25 home runs in 24 starts this season.

But Thursday marked another successful start from Kremer, who scattered six hits and two walks while striking out five, against the Astros. After dominating against them twice last season, Kremer is 3-0 with a 1.14 ERA against Houston, pitching at least seven innings in all three starts. The best start of his career — a four-hit shutout in September 2022 — came against an Astros team that went on to win the World Series.

“I try to,” Kremer said of accepting the challenge of facing the Astros. “Yeah, definitely not the easiest team to face or navigate through their lineup. Their top four, five, six guys can do damage with the flip of a switch if you make any sort of mistakes.”

With Rutschman filling the designated hitter role for the matinee, catcher James McCann started his fifth game in the past week and remained hot at the plate. The veteran hit an RBI single to score Urías, who hit a leadoff triple, and then led off the sixth with a double and scored on a single by Rutschman. In 39 plate appearances since July 16, McCann is hitting .371 with seven doubles and 10 RBIs.

Mountcastle’s home run in the seventh provided much-needed insurance. It didn’t go quite as far as his 472-foot blast Tuesday, but it soared just over the 376-foot marker in left-center field to avoid the left field wall. Since he returned from the injured list July 9 after a bout with vertigo, Mountcastle is hitting .409 with a 1.139 OPS.

In the series’ first two games, the Orioles’ bullpen allowed five runs in each loss. With a three-run lead in the eighth, Cionel Pérez, Hyde’s lone left-handed reliever after the club placed Danny Coulombe on the injured list Thursday morning, allowed a one-out single to Tucker and made an error while covering first on a ground ball, attempting to catch a poor toss from Mountcastle with his bare hand. Setup man Yennier Cano replaced Pérez and allowed an RBI single to Mauricio Dubón before ending the inning by striking out Jeremy Peña.

Altuve hit a one-out double off Bautista to start the Astros’ ninth-inning rally. Bregman walked, Alvarez popped out to McCann and Tucker walked. Díaz then hit what would have likely been a game-tying, two-run single, but Urías’ diving attempt kept the ball in the infield and allowed only Altuve to score. Bautista then bounced back from his blown save Tuesday by getting Singleton to pop out on a 102.4 mph fastball.

“Honestly, it’s good for him,” McCann said on the adversity Bautista has faced this week. “That’s a playoff atmosphere. That’s a playoff team over there. So not only for him to bounce back today but also to kind of go through it again and find a way to come out on top today, he did an excellent job.”

Around the horn

  • Hyde said left-hander Cole Irvin will likely start the Orioles’ game Saturday against the Seattle Mariners. Rather than starting on turn Saturday, Kyle Bradish will toe the rubber Sunday. Kyle Gibson starts Friday.
  • Hyde also said the Orioles will likely move to a six-man rotation with Irvin rejoining the group from the bullpen. Bradish, Grayson Rodriguez and Dean Kremer have all surpassed or are nearing their single-season highs in innings, and Hyde said the extra starting pitcher is a way to manage their workloads better.
  • Tyler Wells is starting Saturday for Double-A Bowie as he continues his progression back to Baltimore after the Orioles optioned him to the minors for a “reset,” Hyde said in late July.
  • Veterans Aaron Hicks and Gibson both achieved 10 years of MLB service time this week, a feat that fewer than 10% of big leaguers accomplish. The milestone is also important, as the 10-year mark is when players’ pensions become fully vested. “It’s such an incredible accomplishment,” Hyde said. “To be able to stay in this game in this league for 10 years takes an incredible amount of talent and determination and will. … It says a lot about their character, honestly, and those two guys are fantastic clubhouse guys, fantastic leaders, and they’ve had good careers.”
  • Luis Almeyda, a 17-year-old shortstop the Orioles gave a franchise-record $2.3 million signing bonus to in January, underwent surgery on his left shoulder Thursday and will miss the rest of the season, the club announced. Almeyda, the club’s No. 25 prospect according to Baseball America, went 11-for-58 (.190 average) with two home runs to begin his career in the Dominican Summer League. The team said he’s expected to be ready for the start of the 2024 season.
  • Baseball America updated the Orioles’ top 30 prospects list to include players selected in the 2023 draft. First-round outfielder Enrique Bradfield Jr. tops the newcomers at No. 9, sandwiched between left-hander DL Hall (No. 8) and outfielder Jud Fabian (No. 10). Right-handed pitcher Jackson Baumeister (Competitive Balance Round B), outfielder/third baseman Mac Horvath (second round) and right-hander Kiefer Lord also made the list at Nos. 16, 18 and 27, respectively.

Orioles at Mariners

Friday, 10:10 p.m.

TV: MASN2, MLB Network (out of market only)

Radio: 97.9 FM, 101.5 FM, 1090 AM


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