Astros fall short in opener to Orioles

Astros fall short in opener to Orioles
July 30, 2013, 9:15 pm
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Porter on Villar: 'He's not afraid'

(Rick Osentoski - USA Today Sports Images)

Jonathan Villar got a straight steal of home and Robbie Grossman had three hits for the Astros, who out-hit the Orioles by a wide margin, but still lost the game. Chris Davis hit his 38th home run of the season, a two-run opposite-field hit to left field, to lift the Orioles to a 4-3 win on Tuesday at Camden Yards. The Astros, who scored the game’s first three runs in the third inning, out-hit the Orioles7-3 but Baltimore made the most of its hits.

STARTING PITCHING

Lucas Harrell (5-11) made a spot start in place of Bud Norris, who was scratched earlier in the day from his scheduled start amid trade speculation. Harrell pitched well for three innings but struggled in Baltimore’s two-run fourth, and the right-hander left the game with one out in the sixth following Davis’ home run. In 5 1/3 innings Harrell allowed four runs. He gave up only two hits but of his five walks, three scored.

Wei-Yin Chen threw 108 pitches in his seven innings in earning the win (6-3). Chen allowed three third-inning runs and six hits with eight strikeouts and one walk.

IN THE BULLPEN

Josh Zeid, whose contract was purchased from Oklahoma City on Monday, made his major league debut. Zeid came in with one out in the eighth inning, facing three batters. Davis walked between fly outs by Adam Jones and Matt Wieters.

AT THE PLATE

Batting from the right-side, switch-hitting Grossman, the No. 9 hitter, had three hits, including a double and a bunt single. The Astros had four straight hits, and five straight batters reached base safely, in Houston’s three-run third inning. The big blow was Jose Altuve’s one-out, bases-loaded single that scored Matt Dominguez and Grossman. Altuve had two hits and two RBIs. Villar’s steal of home made it 3-0.

Davis strikes out a lot. When Harrell struck out Davis in the second inning it marked the 23rd straight game the Orioles designated hitter had struck out. But Davis also hits a lot of home runs. His 38th of the season in the sixth inning, scoring Nick Markakis, gave the Orioles the lead for good at 4-3.

The Orioles didn’t get a hit off Harrell until the fourth inning when J.J. Hardy’s two-out, two-run single on a 1-2 count scored two runs to reduce Houston’s lead to 3-2.

IN THE FIELD

Grossman in left field made a nice sliding catch for the second out of the fifth inning. Grossman got a good jump on the ball hit by Nate McLouth. Grossman made a similar catch at Toronto over the weekend.

Villar also came up with a nice play at shortstop with a diving grab. Villar showed good reaction as he extended to his left to snare the ball hit by Jones for the first out of the sixth inning. Catcher Carlos Corporan threw out Nate McLouth trying to steal second base to end the seventh inning.

For Baltimore, shortstop Hardy corralled a hard-hit ball and barely threw out Brandon Barnes for the second out of the fourth inning.

ON THE BASES

Think about it. Rookie shortstop Villar had a straight steal of home. It wasn’t a back-end steal of home where a runner steals second and the lead base runner at third follows with a steal of home.

And Villar stole the base with ease. Chen had his back to Villar, who was 80-90 percent down the third-base line before Chen even noticed Villar running towards home plate. Villar was actually hit by the ball as he slid across home.

Altuve’s steal of second base in the eighth inning was his 26th of the season. Representing the tying run, Altuve was stranded at second base when Brett Wallace, pinch hitting for Justin Maxwell, struck out for the third out.

UP NEXT

Game 2 of the three-game series at Camden Yards continues on Wednesday and concludes on Thursday. LHP Erik Bedard (3-8, 4.28 ERA) will pitch for Houston on Wednesday vs. RHP Miguel Gonzalez (8-4, 3.69 ERA). From Baltimore the Astros play three games at Minnesota. The Astros return to Minute Maid Park on Monday to begin a three-game series with the Red Sox.