HOUSTON—By the time three batters came to the plate, the Orioles had a 1-0 lead over the Houston Astros. Unfortunately for the Orioles, they didn’t get another run, and their bullpen wasn’t strong enough to hold off the Astros. Their four-game winning streak ended with a 2-1 loss to the Astros before an announced crowd of 36,487 at Minute Maid Park on Wednesday.
The Orioles (95-57) won two out of three against Houston (85-68), which is in a tight three-way race for the National League West.
Their magic number to clinch the American League East dropped to seven when the Rays lost to the Angels 8-3 Wednesday night. Any combination of Tampa Bay losses and Orioles wins equaling seven gives the Orioles their first title since 2014.
Oriole starter Kyle Bradish allowed just two hits in six innings, walking two and striking out nine. But even with a heavily taxed bullpen without Yennier Cano and Cionel Pérez, who had worked three straight games, manager Brandon Hyde wasn’t going to try to squeeze more out of Bradish, who threw 100 pitches.
“Tough lineup to pitch against, and he was outstanding,” Hyde said. “Pitched a 1-0 game and deserved a win.”
Bradish acknowledged that the defending World Series champions are a possible postseason opponent for the Orioles.
“They’re probably going to be the No. 2 seed,” Bradish said. “Hopefully, we’ll see them again. This is a good atmosphere. Their pitching staff, hitters, it’s a complete team so a good test.”
Relief pitcher Shintaro Fujinami allowed the tying run in the eighth. Danny Coulombe (5-2) allowed a double to Yanier Diaz to lead off the ninth. Diaz moved to third on Chas McCormick’s grounder to second and scored the winning run on Mauricio Dubón’s single.
Ryan Pressley (4-5) pitched a spotless ninth for Houston.
Adley Rutschman doubled and Anthony Santander singled to score Rutschman for a 1-0 Orioles lead.
Houston starter Cristian Javier allowed that run and three hits in five innings, striking out 11, equaling his season high, and was removed after throwing 91 pitches.
“It’s not like we’re the only team he’s pitched well against,” second baseman Adam Frazier said. “Any time you’re on the road and get two out of three against Houston, is a big deal. This is a little bitter because I felt we were right there for the sweep.
“That’s a good team over there. To hold them down like we did is a pretty good job by our pitchers. We would have liked to put a couple of more runs across there. We felt pretty good about our chances to take care of this third game.”
The Orioles had first and third with none out in the sixth. Santander doubled and moved to third on Ryan O’Hearn’s infield single against Hector Neris, but the Orioles didn’t score.
Bradish allowed just one hit, a single by McCormick in the third, in the first five innings.
In the sixth Jake Meyers singled, moved to second on Martín Maldonado’s sacrifice and stayed there as Jose Altuve struck out and Bradish thought he’d stuck out Jeremy Peña, but it was ruled he reached on catcher’s interference. Kyle Tucker lined out to third to end the inning.
“He pitches well against good teams because he’s got big-time stuff,” Hyde said.
Jacob Webb pitched a scoreless seventh.
Fujinami walked Jake Myers and walked Altuve with one out. Mike Baumann allowed a one-out double to Peña that tied the score at 1. Tucker was walked intentionally to load the bases. Alex Bregman struck out and Abreu hit a ground ball that bounced high off the mound, but Frazier made a leaping catch at second and threw him out at first.
“He was on a nice little roll there,” Hyde said about Fujinami. “Today a lot of arm-side misses. When the stuff’s good, it’s in the strike zone.”
Frazier thinks there’s a good chance the Orioles and Astros will match up in the postseason next month.
“These guys are the defending champs over there,” he said. “We know what they’re capable of. Everybody knows that. I know there’s a good chance we’ll see them again in a couple of weeks. Until then, we’ve got to finish strong. We’ve got Cleveland coming up — try to get after them tomorrow.”
Notes: O’Hearn was credited with a single instead of reaching on an error in the fifth inning of last Saturday’s game in Baltimore. … Grayson Rodriguez (6-4, 4.53) will start for the Orioles on Thursday night in Cleveland. The Guardians haven’t named a starter for the first of four games. Thursday’s game will be shown exclusively on FOX and begins at 7:15 p.m.
The Orioles have begun a minor league camp in Sarasota that runs through October 8th. Players are: catcher Samuel Basallo, left-handed pitcher Jared Beck, infielder Frederick Bencosme, outfielder Enrique Bradfield Jr. , right-handed pitcher Trace Bright, right-handed pitcher Moisés Chace, outfielder Jake Cunningham, right-handed pitcher Luis De León, infielder Anderson De Los Santos, outfielder Matthew Etzel, outfielder Douglas Hodo III, infielder/outfielder Mac Horvath, right-handed pitcher Seth Johnson, outfielder Tavian Josenberger, catcher Andrés Nolaya, right-handed pitcher Jean Pinto, left-handed pitcher Juan Rojas, catcher Cole Urman, infielder Jalen Vasquez, catcher Creed Willems and infielder Carter Young.