Monday, June 02, 2014
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Machado Powers Orioles Past Astros

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[June 02, 2014]  HOUSTON -- Less than 24 hours after answering questions about the offensive slump that led to his relegation to the seven-hole in the Baltimore batting order, Orioles third baseman Manny Machado provided the offensive thump his club had been sorely lacking as of late.

Machado belted his first career grand slam, capping a breakout six-run sixth inning while leading the Orioles to a 9-4 victory over the Houston Astros and a series split Sunday at Minute Maid Park.

Machado turned on a 2-2 sinker from Astros right-hander Scott Feldman (3-3) for his third home run of the season and his second extra-base hit of the afternoon. Machado, dropped five spots from the second slot in the lineup Thursday, doubled and scored in the third inning. He began to emerge from his hitting funk with a pair of infield singles in Saturday's 4-1 win. Not only did Machado create distance from his individual woes, the Orioles cobbled together needed rhythm.

"Not a hundred percent, but I feel much (more) comfortable in there," said Machado, who was back in the two-hole for the series finale. "It was overall a good day. The pitching staff threw well. We're finally getting some hits when we need to. Things are coming into place."

The Orioles (28-27) scored nine runs total over their previous four games. Machado carried the offensive load with his grand slam to left field but he received support from David Lough, who cranked a two-run homer off Feldman in the second inning, as well as Nick Hundley and Adam Jones, both of whom recorded sacrifice flies to right field.

Lough added an RBI single in the sixth to kick-start the uprising against Feldman, who has a 6.84 ERA in four starts since returning from the 15-day disabled list on May 9. Feldman was 2-1 with a 1.69 ERA in April.

"I think just really making pitches (is the difference)," Feldman said of his poor results. "I haven't made as many good pitches when I've needed them, especially getting into some big situations like today, bases loaded and can't make a pitch to get out of it. I think it just really comes down to that."

Left-hander Wei-Yin Chen (6-2) matched his season high with six strikeouts, allowing one run on four hits and one walk over 5 1/3 innings. Astros right fielder George Springer doubled and scored in the fourth inning, cutting the deficit to 3-1, but Chen remained in control.

The ample run support allowed for his departure after 97 pitches. He longed to extend his start deeper into the game, but with the Orioles welcoming an off-day on Monday, there was no need to push Chen given the commanding lead and the opportunity for the bullpen to get work.

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"I wanted to shorten him up a little bit because I'm going to bring him back on normal rest and we got an opportunity there between 95 and 105 (pitches) is usually where he is," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "And I had three guys (Brad Branch, Preston Guilmet, Brain Matusz) that I needed to get work today with the off day and we were fortunate to do that."

Third baseman Matt Dominguez socked a two-run home run off Guilmet in the eighth inning, his eighth on the season, for the Astros (24-34), who won the opening two games of this four-game series. Houston also has Monday off and, after playing 17 consecutive days, its inconsistent offense could use the breather to match its solid pitching.

"Obviously this has been a good stretch," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "Do you want to split the series at home? No. We'd love to win the series. But at the same time we've played really good baseball and feel like the off-day is coming at a really good time. We'll show back up on Tuesday (against the Los Angeles Angels) ready to play."

NOTES: The Astros optioned LHP Brett Oberholtzer to Triple-A Oklahoma City, clearing the logjam in their six-man rotation. Oberholtzer allowed one run on four hits with no walks over seven innings Friday night against the Orioles, but the Astros opted to keep RHP Brad Peacock in their rotation to maintain his routine following recent arm issues. RHP Paul Clemens was recalled from Oklahoma City to replace Oberholtzer on the 25-man roster. ... Orioles RF Nelson Cruz was removed in the third inning after being hit on the left hand by a Scott Feldman pitch. ... Orioles RHP Tommy Hunter completed a bullpen session Sunday and is scheduled to join the club in Arlington on Tuesday. Hunter isn't eligible to return from the 15-day disabled list until June 5, but he will throw another bullpen session and at least one simulated game before he is reinstated.

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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