HOUSTON - Luis Valbuena did it again. The Houston third baseman, who had hit just two homers this year before the Orioles got here, tonight hit his third in this series.
Valbuena’s two-run shot to right off Kevin Gausman broke a 1-1 tie in the second and Houston went ahead 3-1. The homer scored Tyler White, who drew a one-out walk.
At the start of this series, Valbuena was batting .197 with two homers and 10 RBIs. After the homer, he is 4-for-8 with three homers and five RBIs in this series.
In tonight’s opening inning, the O’s had a golden chance to get the lead. Lance McCullers walked Joey Rickard and Manny Machado to put two on with none out. But then McCullers got Chris Davis on a groundout, Adam Jones on a strikeout and Matt Wieters on a groundout. The O’s missed an early chance and now are 4-for-26 in the series with runners in scoring position.
Moments after the O’s failed to take the lead, Houston did take it. On Gausman’s second pitch of the game, George Springer blasted a homer to left. He hit a 1-0 fastball 430 feet, according to Statcast.
Mark Trumbo matched that with a blast of his own in the second. Trumbo hit a first-pitch fastball at 94 mph onto the train tracks above the back wall behind the left field fence. It was No. 14 for Trumbo and his eighth over his past 21 games. He began tonight 1-for-18 over his past four games with nine strikeouts.
Speaking of strikeouts, the Orioles had five of them in the first three innings tonight. With that, Houston set a three-game series record with 42 strikeouts. They have plenty of time to pad that record.
The Orioles began tonight at 26-18 and two games back of Boston for the American League East lead. Houston is looking for its first three-game home sweep of the Orioles since June 3-5, 2003.
Another Springer homer: The fifth inning provided more frustration for the Orioles. Matt Wieters struck out with the bases loaded as they left them loaded in the top of the frame and struck out three more times. That is 10 for the night. McCullers walked the bases loaded, but the O’s couldn’t make him pay for that.
In the last of the fifth, Springer’s solo homer to left made it 4-1. He has a two-homer night, his third career multi-homer game. Gausman had allowed three homers all year over 36 2/3 innings and the three homers he allowed tonight tie his career high. He first set that in his second career start, May 28, 2013 at Washington.
A record set tonight: The Astros tonight have set a major league record for most strikeouts in a three-game series. Houston pitchers fanned 49 through the sixth inning of tonight’s game to set a record. The previous mark was 47 by the Nationals earlier this year. The O’s have fanned 19, 18 and now 14 times this series, as they added two in the seventh inning.
A miserable series by the Orioles got a little better when Ashur Tolliver made his major league debut in the last of the sixth. He fanned two in a scoreless inning. His long road back from labrum surgery now finds him in a major league boxscore.
Swept out of Houston: The Orioles lost 4-2 tonight to the Astros and they are swept in three games by a combined 11-7 score. They have scored 12 runs their last four games. Manny Machado produced an RBI single in the ninth for the final margin.
Houston fanned 19 Orioles on Tuesday, 18 last night and 15 tonight. The three-game total of 52 set a major league record. The Orioles have struck out 73 times the last five games.
In his major league debut, Tolliver fanned three in a 1 1/3 scoreless innings. It was an impressive first big league appearance for the 28-year-old lefty.
Now it’s on to Cleveland for the 26-19 Orioles. They are 2-4 on this road trip and have a season-high four straight losses.