McCullers, Carter lead Astros over Orioles 3-1
HOUSTON (AP) — When Houston manager A.J. Hinch visited Lance McCullers on the mound after he gave up a single with two outs in the ninth inning on Wednesday night against Baltimore, he hoped the rookie would say he had enough left to finish the game.
“I went out wanting to leave him in and asked him how much he had left in his tank and he said he had plenty left,” Hinch said. “And I told him: ‘Good because he’s going to finish it. This was his hitter to get, his game to get.”’
McCullers allowed one run in a complete game, Chris Carter provided the offense with a pair of homers and the Astros picked up another win, 3-1, over the Orioles.
They are off to the best start in franchise history with an American League-best 34-20 record.
Carter homered in the second and fifth innings and George Springer added a solo shot in the sixth inning as the Astros improved to 21-0 when hitting multiple homers this season.
In his fourth career start, McCullers (2-0) yielded four hits and struck out a career-best 11 to lower his ERA to 1.88. McCullers hadn’t lasted more than six innings entering the game. He retired 15 in a row before a single by Adam Jones with two outs in the ninth, but he struck out Chris Davis to end the game.
McCullers thought he was done after the hit by Jones.
“(Catcher Jason) Castro actually said: ‘Hey man, great game,”’ McCullers said. “And he (Hinch) came out and he was like: ‘How you feeling?’ And I was like: ‘Well maybe I’ve got a shot to stay in.”
Baltimore starter Miguel Gonzalez (5-4) struck out eight and allowed just four hits, but tied a career-high with three homers, in 6 2/3 innings as the Orioles dropped their fifth straight.
Carter has shaken off a tough start to the year with a season-long 11-game hitting streak to raise his batting average from .157 to .205.
“I’d like to be higher than that, but it’s a start,” Carter said. “I’m trying to work my way up, a few points here every day and just work my way up.”
After Carter’s homer in the second inning Gonzalez didn’t allow another baserunner until Carter went deep again with one out in the fifth inning to put Houston up 2-1. This time Carter launched a 93 mph fastball onto the train tracks atop the wall in left-center field for his 11th career multi-homer game and the first since Sept. 3, 2014.
Carter has 10 homers this season after tying for second in the majors with 37 last year.
Hinch said he never thought about benching Carter during his struggles.
“I’ve never wavered,” Hinch said. “I think he’s a dangerous player on our opponent. I’ve been proud of how he’s handled it.”
Carter gave Houston a 1-0 lead with his two-out full-count homer to the Crawford Boxes in left field in the second inning.
Jones, who entered the game hitting .118 in five games against Houston this season, snapped a 0 for 12 slump with a triple, which bounced off the wall in left-center field, in the fourth inning. The Orioles tied it up when Delmon Jones hit a single down the right field line two outs in the inning.
Baltimore didn’t get another hit until the single by Jones in the ninth.
“We hit a lot of balls hard right at guys (Wednesday),” Jones said. “That’s unfortunate but that’s part of the game. So … let’s just be a little bit more efficient.”
Orioles: SS J.J. Hardy was feeling better on Wednesday, but missed his third straight game with soreness in his left side. Manager Buck Showalter hopes he’ll return to the lineup on Thursday. … C Matt Wieters, who had Tommy John surgery last June, played a rehabilitation double header at Triple-A Norfolk on Wednesday and Showalter said that if all goes according to plan he will join the team on Friday in Cleveland. … Starter Bud Norris (bronchitis) pitched the first game of that doubleheader and is expected to return from the disabled list to start of Baltimore on Sunday.
Astros: Castro was back in the lineup after missing a game after being plunked in the right knee on Monday night. … RHP Samuel Deduno, who is on the disabled list with a hip injury, had an MRI on Tuesday and will not need surgery. He will begin a rehabilitation program to slowly work his way back to throwing.
Houston left-hander Dallas Keuchel, who has won consecutive AL pitcher of the month awards, opposes Wei-Yin Chen when these teams wrap up the four-game series. Keuchel threw a four-hitter in his last start for his second straight complete game to lower his ERA to a major league-leading 1.76.