The Orioles, an American League-best 70-42, have won four straight games and seven of their past eight contests to take a three-game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays atop the AL East. Baltimore’s 21-7 mark since July 5 is the best in the majors
Meantime, the defending World Series champion Astros have won five of their past seven games to move to within 2 1/2 games behind the Texas Rangers in the AL West. The Astros also hold the second wild-card spot behind the Tampa Bay Rays
The Orioles, who punctuated a three-game sweep of the New York Mets with a 2-0 win on Sunday, are a major-league-best 34-17 in games decided by two runs or fewer
On Sunday, after starter Kyle Bradish was pulled after giving up three hits with five strikeouts and five walks in 4 2/3 innings, the Baltimore bullpen was terrific. Cionel Perez, Cole Irvin and Shintaro Fujinami didn’t surrender a hit for the next 3 1/3 innings. Felix Bautista allowed one in the ninth before picking up his 30th save of the season
“It’s gonna take all those guys down there the rest of the way,” Baltimore manager Brandon Hyde said of his bullpen. “I was kind of hoping we’d be in a spot where other guys could step up in big spots, and that happened today because we need Cionel Perez, we need Fuji, and Irvin was outstanding there in that inning. That’s big for all those guys to contribute.
The Orioles turn to rookie right-hander Grayson Rodriguez (2-3, 6.09 ERA) in Tuesday’s opener. Rodriguez allowed three runs on two hits with six strikeouts and two walks in a 4-1 loss against the host Toronto Blue Jays in his last start on Wednesday
The Astros are countering with lefty Framber Valdez (9-7, 3.07), who will be hard-pressed to equal his last outing, a no-hitter against the Cleveland Guardians last Tuesday. Valdez, who finished with seven strikeouts and a walk, needed just 93 pitches to complete the 2-0 win and throw the 16th no-hitter in Astros history
Valdez has a 3.68 ERA against the Orioles in three appearances, including two starts, spanning 14 2/3 innings
Houston, like the Orioles had Monday off, arrives in Baltimore after a 9-7 win against the host New York Yankees on Sunday to split a four-game series
With the game tied at five in the sixth inning, Jake Meyers hit a three-run homer — his second of the game –, and Martin Maldonado followed with a solo shot to give the Astros a 9-5 lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Yordan Alvarez also homered in the win
“That was big,” Houston manager Dusty Baker said of Meyers. “He’s been making some adjustments, trying to find his stroke, and he found it on two of them.
–Field Level Medi
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