Looks like the excuses just ran out for Dusty Baker, Astros

STONE COLD 'STROS

Coming off a series sweep from the Seattle Mariners, the Astros still sit 2.5 games behind the Texas Rangers in the AL West. Luckily for Houston, the Rangers were also swept over the weekend. But the Rangers are no longer the only threat to the Astros in the division.

The Mariners are only a half game back of the 'Stros, with a little over a month left in the regular season. It's been a rough stretch for Houston, and Martin Maldonado called a team meeting after the sweep to discuss some issues he believes the team needs to address.

However, one of the glaring issues with the ball club is the poor level of play from the catcher position. Maldy's issues at the plate are well documented, but his decline defensively is getting harder to ignore. Plus, his ability to call a game seems to be slipping as well, with every pitcher in the rotation struggling outside of JP France. Maldonado recently turned 37 years old and don't look now, but the other catcher on the roster, has become one of the team's best hitters.

Yainer Diaz has really stood out recently playing 1st base while Jose Abreu is working his way back from injury. No matter how much Dusty Baker insists that Maldonado is his starting catcher, something eventually has to give. When Abreu returns to the lineup, Diaz can't go back to being a part-time player.

He's become too important to the Astro offense. And if Michael Brantley returns, he and Yordan Alvarez will be playing left field and DH on a daily basis. At least that's what GM Dana Brown said a week ago. So unless Yainer will continue to split time at first base when Abreu returns, playing him most days at catcher just makes the most sense.

Be sure to watch the video above for the full discussion.

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Astros beat the Orioles, 8-1. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

Framber Valdez pitched seven solid innings and Jeremy Peña and Yainer Diaz had three RBIs apiece to give the Houston Astros a 8-1 win over the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday and complete a three-game sweep.

It’s just the second time the Orioles have been swept this season after losing three in a row to the Cardinals from May 20-22.

Valdez (6-5) allowed six hits and a run with seven strikeouts in seven innings to bounce back after consecutive losses.

Jose Altuve hit a leadoff homer as the Astros jumped on Albert Suárez (3-2) for four runs in the first. Alex Bregman had a season-high four hits for Houston, which extended its winning streak to five games.

Jordan Westburg homered for a second straight game to extend Baltimore’s franchise-record streak of games with a home run to 22. But the Orioles couldn't do much else offensively as they managed just one run for a second straight game.

Suárez permitted a career-high 10 hits and tied a career-most with five runs in five innings.

Bryan King struck out one in a scoreless eighth for Houston in his major league debut and Luis Contreras allowed one hit in his debut in the ninth.

Altuve sent Suárez’s first pitch out of the park for his 38th career leadoff homer to make it 1-0. Bregman doubled and scored on a one-out single by Diaz.

Peña doubled to left field to drive in Diaz and extend the lead to 3-0. Mauricio Dubón made it 4-0 with his RBI single on a line drive to center field.

César Salazar hit a single to open Houston’s fourth before a one-out double by Bregman. The Orioles intentionally walked Yordan Alvarez to load the bases and a sacrifice fly by Diaz left Houston up 5-0.

Colton Cowser singled with one out in the fifth but was erased when Adley Rutschman grounded into a force out. Ryan Mountcastle singled after that, but Anthony Santander also grounded into a force out to end the inning.

Westburg’s home run came with one out in the sixth to cut the lead to 5-1.

Bregman singled with one out in the sixth and a single by Diaz came with two outs in the inning. They both scored when Peña smacked a double to left-center field to make it 7-1.

Altuve and Bregman hit consecutive singles to start the eighth and Altuve scored on a sacrifice fly by Diaz with two outs to extend the lead to 8-1.

UP NEXT

Orioles: LHP Cade Povich (0-1, 3.94 ERA) starts for Baltimore in the opener of a three-game series with Cleveland on Monday night.

Astros: Houston is off Monday before starting a two-game series with the Colorado Rockies on Tuesday night.

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