Saturday, May 31, 2014
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Astros Win Seventh Straight Game

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[May 31, 2014]  HOUSTON -- Give Houston Astros manager Bo Porter time and he will wax poetic about the process of winning and how his team has embraced it. Whether it's process before performance or vice versa, something has clicked for his team.

For a second consecutive game, the Astros fashioned a two-run rally in the seventh inning, this time parlaying back-to-back run-scoring doubles from Robbie Grossman and Jonathan Villar into a 2-1 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Friday night at Minute Maid Park.

Handcuffed for six innings by Orioles right-hander Miguel Gonzalez, the Astros (24-32) extended their winning streak to seven games by stringing together four hits in the seventh inning. Even with a pair of baserunning blunders, the Astros eased a 1-0 deficit, with right fielder Grossman doubling over the outstretched glove of Orioles left fielder Steve Pearce with two outs and third baseman Matt Dominguez stationed on third.

Shortstop Villar followed with a ground-rule double to right-center field, snapping an 0-for-26 skid and chasing Gonzalez (3-4) in the process.

"Extremely happy for him and Grossman," Porter said of Villar. "Both of them have been kind of scuffling, and for them to be the two offensive heroes tonight, it definitely feels good. I'm sure they both feel good about it as well. They've been working extremely hard and to be able to come through for the team tonight, especially with two outs and after a poor baserunning decision, to pick the team up, that's what teamwork is all about."

Astros left-hander Brett Oberholtzer (2-6) allowed one run on four hits with one strikeout over seven stellar innings. He tossed just 81 pitches before ceding the mound to his red-hot bullpen, with Kyle Farnsworth and Tony Sipp holding the line before closer Chad Qualls capped the victory over Baltimore (26-27) with a four-out save, his fifth.

Gonzalez, who allowed exactly two earned runs in each of his previous three starts, was razor sharp from the outset, retiring the first eight batters he faced before walking Villar with two outs in the third inning.

That misstep hardly slowed Gonzalez, who rallied to induce an inning-ending ground ball from Astros shortstop Jose Altuve. That initiated a string in which he retired eight of the next nine batters, a stretch only interrupted when he hit catcher Jason Castro with a pitch in the fourth.

Gonzalez had yet to allow a hit by the time Altuve came to the plate with two outs in the sixth, and Altuve ended the drama by just beating the throw from shortstop J.J. Hardy for an infield hit. Altuve followed with his American League-leading 20th stolen base, but Gonzalez recovered to strike out right fielder George Springer before getting Castro to fly out.

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"I was thinking about it," Gonzalez said of his no-hit bid. "They were hitting the ball pretty good (but) we got a couple outs, we made (a) couple of nice plays ... when we needed to.

"I was working pretty well."

Oberholtzer was a worthy adversary, recording 12 groundball outs to keep the slumping Orioles scuffling. Baltimore strung two hits together in the second inning, the latter a single to left from Hardy that enabled Adam Jones, who doubled to open the frame, to score with ease.

But the Orioles did not muster much of a threat beyond that frame.

"I think we've scored five runs in the last three games," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "You tip your cap to the other pitcher, but we're capable of better."

NOTES: Setting the backdrop for the eighth annual Civil Rights Game, the Astros wore the Negro League uniforms of the Houston Eagles (1949-50), and the Orioles donned those of the Baltimore Elite Giants (1938-50). ... Orioles C Matt Wieters made 25 throws from 75 feet on Friday, the first step in his return from a right elbow strain that landed him on the 15-day disabled list May 11. Wieters last played May 10 and last caught May 4. ... By belting his 10th home run of the month on Thursday night, Astros RF George Springer became the first rookie to reach double digits in home runs in May since Oakland 1B Mark McGwire hit 15 homers in May 1987.

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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