Houston homers three times and Blanco rolls on mound as Astros take Game 2 (updated)

HOUSTON – Right-hander Corbin Burnes had been everything the O’s hoped for this year and maybe more. He had 10 straight quality starts coming into today’s outing and his 2.14 ERA ranked tied for first in the American League and tied for third-best in the major leagues. 

And today it’s not like the Houston Astros hit him that hard. But they did do something no other team could do against him this year. They got him for two homers.

That led Houston, which also got a strong pitching effort from right-hander Ronel Blanco, to beat the Orioles 5-1 today at Minute Maid Park in front of 37,107.

The Birds, now 49-27, would suffer a sweep with a loss tomorrow. From 2016-2019, the Orioles went 1-11 in Houston. But since the 2021 season they were 7-2 at Minute Maid Park when this series started. 

The O’s offense slowed after it put up 28 runs in the previous two games, 35 in the last three and 51 in the past six. The O’s began today leading the majors in scoring at 5.35 runs per game.

Against Blanco, who threw a no-hitter on April 1 – the earliest no-hitter by date in major league history – the Orioles got a 1-0 lead today.

Jordan Westburg, born in New Braunfels, Texas, about 175 miles west of Houston, hit a solo homer off Blanco in the O’s second inning. Westburg hit an 0-1 fastball to the back of the Crawford Boxes in left field, 380 feet deep, for his 12th homer of the season.

That blast gave the Orioles a club record: a home run in 21 straight games, breaking this team’s tie with the Orioles from July 17-Aug. 9, 1998. During the 2024 O’s run of 20 straight games with a longball coming into today, they had gone 13-7, hit 44 homers and scored 6.3 runs per game.

The major league record is 31 straight with a home run, set by the 2019 New York Yankees.

But the Birds' early lead didn’t survive the inning as Houston tied it 1-1 on Mauricio Dubón’s sac fly in the home half. Yainer Diaz led off the inning with a liner to right for a triple, just out of the reach of right fielder Colton Cowser. He scored on the fly ball.

Another fly ball, a bit deeper, gave Houston the 3-1 lead in the home third off Burnes.

Yordan Alvarez mashed a two-run homer 420 feet to center for a two-run lead. He hit No. 16 on a changeup that was low but found too much of the middle of the plate. Alvarez hammered it with an exit velocity of 106.7 and Houston had the lead.

Chas McCormack, batting ninth, had his fifth career two-homer day for Houston, getting one off Burnes and the other off Bryan Baker.

McCormack's shot to left in the fifth off Burnes provided a 4-1 lead as he hammered a cutter with 110.2 mph exit velocity. He took Baker out to right field, just over the leap of Cowser, in the eighth for a 5-1 margin.

Burnes is now 8-3 and his ERA went up to 2.35. He pitched seven innings and gave up five hits and four runs with no walks and five strikeouts. Burnes threw 90 pitches. 

His streak of quality starts ended two shy of Jim Palmer's club record of 12 in a row in 1975. Burnes had allowed just two homers over his past eight starts and 51 1/3 innings until Houston got him today.

Blanco improved to 8-2 with a 2.34 ERA after his 98-pitch outing. He gave up just four hits and the one run over seven innings. His first appearance against the Orioles marked the seventh time this year that he's thrown 98 or more pitches. 

Gunnar Henderson went hitless today, 0-for-3 as the Houston outfield made a couple of nice plays against him. But he did draw a first-inning walk. That extended his streak of games in which he's reached to 29 in a row, a career best. It is the longest by an Oriole since Nick Markakis got on base in 38 straight from July 5-Aug. 18, 2009.

Houston (37-40) has now won 11 of its past 17 series, going 30-21 over those 51 games.

Manager Brandon Hyde on Burnes going seven, which was big: “With this stretch we’re in with a fatigued ‘pen, he went seven innings for us. Definitely gave us a good chance to win. Had good stuff. Just a couple of pitches you want to have back.”

Hyde, was a bad day or series inevitable?: “I think our guys have been grinding big time and we ran into a good starter and good team. And they pitched Pressly and Hader at the end. They just beat us today."

Burnes felt he threw well but two pitches beat him: “Absolutely. I threw the ball really well today. Which is kind of funny to say when you lose 5-1 and you gave up four runs. But just from coming off the game and briefly looking at it. Command-wise, kind of the best we’ve been. Stuff-wise, the best we’ve been. Two mistakes that we left over the plate that they hit out. Otherwise it’s a 1-1 ballgame in the seventh."

Burnes, did a tough stretch catch up to the Orioles finally?: “I don’t think so. We knew coming into this stretch what it would be like. We’ve done a good job of playing great baseball and getting days when you need to. You saw the fight we put in last night to come back in that game. Tonight we faced a guy with one of the better numbers in the league and he threw the ball well. You are going to run into guys like that where it’s tough to get something going.

“But I think we’ve played great baseball. We’ll come out and salvage the series tomorrow and get back home and play some good baseball.  

Westburg on hitting a homer in his home state. Was that meaningful for him?: “Sure. In the moment. But all I want to do is win and it’s a disappointing loss, it’s a frustrating loss. So. Yeah it was cool in the moment but it faded pretty quickly in this one. Every loss stings. Disappointing one.”

Westburg on team playing mostly well in a tough June stretch: "I think we’re playing good baseball. It’s easy to overreact on the first two games of a series. But we play 162 and losing is bound to happen. In a stretch like we are in this June, not that losing is ever OK, but it’s expected at some point. We can’t be perfect and can’t go 162-0. I just think we’ll take it one day at a time and tackle the game that is next on the schedule. Try to salvage the series.”

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O's game blog: Right-hander Corbin Burnes takes th...

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