Houston took a no-hitter into the eighth

Astros dominate Orioles to extend winning streak to eight

Astros' Jake Odorizzi
Odorizzi threw five no-hit innings against the Orioles Monday night. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

Odorizzi threw five no-hit innings against the Orioles Monday night.

After an impressive four-game sweep of the Chicago White Sox to cap off their recent homestand, the Astros started a week-long road trip on Monday in Baltimore. The game was delayed about an hour due to rain, but once it got started, it was all Astros as they dominated Baltimore for their eighth straight win.

Final Score: Astros 10, Orioles 2

Astros' Record: 44-28, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jake Odorizzi (2-3)

Losing Pitcher: Keegan Akin (0-3)

Odorizzi goes five hitless innings

Jake Odorizzi had his best start of the year, taking care of business against a struggling Baltimore lineup. He was perfect through the first four and one-third innings, retiring the first thirteen batters he faced. The only allowed baserunner came with one out in the fifth, on a walk, which he erased by sitting down the next two batters. With a rising pitch count, he would get the knuckles from Dusty Baker to end his night: 5.0 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 K, 86 P.

Houston plates five in the third

His offense gifted him with a large lead by exploding for a big third inning. The first four batters all reached base, with Chas McCormick bringing in the first run of the night on an RBI single. Yuli Gurriel brought in another with a sac fly for the first out, followed by Yordan Alvarez, who scored the remaining two players on base with a three-run opposite-field homer to make it 5-0.

Cristian Javier took over in the bottom of the sixth, completing a 1-2-3 inning to keep Baltimore hitless. Houston added to their lead in the top of the seventh, getting Yuli Gurriel's second sac fly of the night and an RBI single by Carlos Correa to make it 7-0. Javier returned to the mound, with rain falling, and retired three more Orioles hitters in order in the bottom of the seventh.

Astros take the opener

As the rain picked up in the top of the eighth, the umpiring crew had no choice but to delay the game 41 minutes with one out and a runner on. When things resumed, Michael Brantley continued to rake, hitting a two-RBI double, then a pinch-hitting Garret Stubbs made it double-digits with an RBI double to make it 10-0.

In the bottom of the eighth, Brandon Bielak hit a batter with one out, then after a missed strike three by Angel Hernandez, which would've kept the no-hitter going, Baltimore got a two-run homer to end the no-hitter and make it a 10-2 game. Brooks Raley came in for the bottom of the ninth, wrapping up the long game and giving Houston their eighth win in a row to take over sole possession of first place in the AL West with an Oakland loss earlier in the evening.

Up Next: The middle game of this three-game series will start at 6:05 PM Central on Tuesday and features the pitching matchup of Zack Greinke (7-2, 3.74 ERA) for the Astros and Jorge Lopez (2-8, 5.95 ERA) for the Orioles.

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The Astros are back in action Friday night against the A's. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images.

The Astros need to whip up on the Oakland A’s this weekend in California as they did in sweeping four from them last week at Minute Maid Park. That was the start of a homestand which ended up with seven wins in 10 games. That goes down as a successful homestand, especially since it felt like the Astros’ prior winning homestand came while Donald Trump was President (it actually started in late July). Still, 7-3 doesn’t feel like a smashing success with it ending by dropping two of three games to the lowly Los Angeles Angels.

It is not exactly with bated breath that anyone should be waiting on Jose Abreu’s return to the lineup, but it’s coming. It should not be on this road trip. After the three games with the A’s the Astros move up the coast for a big four game set with American League West leading Seattle. The M's start all right-handed pitchers. That is no time to sit Jon Singleton to see if Abreu has managed to pump a few drops of gas into his tank while spending the better part of this month at the Astros’ minor league complex. It’s not as if Singleton has been stellar since Abreu’s departure, but by comparison, he’s been Lou Gehrig-esque. The series with the Mariners isn’t make or break but the Astros are strongly advised to get at least a split. That it should be Framber Valdez starting the opener Monday night doesn’t breed tremendous confidence, coming off his meltdown outing against the Angels. Another start, another opportunity.

The Mariners are at the Nationals this weekend, starting it a mere four and a half games ahead of the Astros. In four of the five other divisions the Astros' 22-28 record would have them at least 10 games off the lead.

One step forward, two steps back

Speaking of washed-up first basemen, Joey Votto should be a future Hall of Famer. The 40-year-old Canadian is trying to make it back to the big leagues via the minor leagues with the Toronto Blue Jays. Votto was an absolutely tremendous player with the Cincinnati Reds. As the Beastie Boys said, “Ch-check it out.” Over Jeff Bagwell’s first ten seasons with the Astros he hit .305 with a .417 on-base percentage and .552 slugging percentage, yielding a phenomenal .970 OPS. Over Votto’s first ten full seasons with the Reds: .313/.429/.540 for an exactly phenomenal .970 OPS. Where am I going with this? Read on!

Votto had phenomenal strike zone and bat control. He turned 30 during the 2013 season. That year Votto had 581 at bats. He popped out to an infielder once the entire season. Alex Bregman turned 30 the third day of this season. Bregman popped out to the shortstop four times in the Angels series. So much for Bregman’s “knob past the ball” epiphany that saw him hit three home runs over two games last week. Going into the weekend Bregman has one hit in his last 23 at bats. His season stats continue to be pitiful: a .209 batting average and .607 OPS. Bregman has only struck out once in the 23 at bats of his latest deep freeze. It’s that so much of his contract is feeble. There is a lot of season left for Bregman to build up to decent numbers, but one-third of the regular season will be complete after the Astros play the Mariners Monday night.

While Bregman’s season to date has basically been one long slump, Jose Altuve is in a funk of his own. Since blasting a homer Monday, Altuve is hitless in 12 at bats. Mini-slumps happen to everybody but Altuve’s woes trace back farther. Over his last 15 games, Altuve is batting .175. He last had more than one hit in a game May 5. He’s also drawn just two walks over those 15 games. It’s tough to ever sit Altuve, but he’s probably playing a little too much. Altuve turned 34 earlier this month. He has started 48 of the Astros 50 games at second base. Mauricio Dubon should be getting a start per week at second (and probably another at third given Bregman’s level of play). Over a full season not playing the field once per week still means 135 starts. Altuve should mix in some more at designated hitter (he has just one DH game so far this season). Wear and tear is a real thing, players don’t grow less susceptible to it as they get to their mid-30s.

King Tuck

On the flip side, Kyle Tucker! So far this season, he’s making himself as much money as Bregman is costing himself. Only Shohei Ohtani (1.069) starts the weekend action with an OPS higher than Tucker’s 1.060. The law of averages dictates that Tucker won’t finish as high as 1.060, but if he does, it would be the greatest full-length season offensive performance in Astros’ history. Jeff Bagwell posted an absurd 1.201 OPS in the strike-shortened 1994 campaign. Yordan Alvarez came in at 1.067 in his 87 games played rookie season of 2019. Lance Berkman’s 2001 was a monster. Enron Field was more hitter-friendly then than Minute Maid Park is now, but Berkman’s numbers were “Oh My Gosh!” spectacular. .331 batting average, 55 doubles (second in franchise history to Craig Biggio's 56 in 1999), 34 homers, .430 on-base percentage, .620 slugging percentage, and 1.051 OPS. And that was just Berkman’s second full season in the majors. Lance finished fifth in National League Most Valuable Player Award voting. Giant-headed Barry Bonds won MVP with his 73 home runs among other sicko stats.

* Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via The SportsMap HOU YouTube channel or listen to episodes in their entirety at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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