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American League Preview from The Sports Network
Wednesday, July 31st (All times Eastern)
Houston Astros (35-70) at Baltimore Orioles (59-48), 7:05 p.m.
Probable Starting Pitchers: Houston - Brett Oberholtzer (0-0, 7.36) Baltimore - Miguel Gonzalez (8-4, 3.69)
(Sports Network) - Chris Davis found a perfect time to break out of his power slump.
The Major League leader in home runs will try to help the Baltimore Orioles secure a series victory on Wednesday night in the middle contest of a three- game series versus the Houston Astros.
Davis blasted his career-high 37th homer of the season on July 14, closing the first half with a home run in four straight contests. However, the left-handed slugger did not go deep in his first 10 games after the All-Star break before hitting a go-ahead, two-run homer in Tuesday's 4-3 win over Houston.
Davis also moved into a tie for the Major League lead in RBI with 99 and is hitting a solid .305 on the season despite striking out 131 times this season, tied for third most in baseball. In fact, Davis' strikeout in Tuesday's contest marked his 23rd straight game going down on strikes, a franchise record.
Still, the 27-year-old is a major factor in Baltimore's success this season.
"He's a great hitter," said J.J. Hardy, who had a two-run single on Tuesday, of Davis. "When you set the standard so high ... when you struggle for a week it's like a big deal. But from the teammates' perspective we don't look at it like that."
Davis' homer and 7 1/3 solid innings from starter Wei-Yin Chen helped Baltimore win for just the second time in seven games as it sits five games back of first place in the AL East. The Orioles also hold just a half-game edge for the league's second wild card spot.
The Orioles drew seven walks in Tuesday's win, including five off Astros starter Lucas Harrell, who made the spot start after trade candidate Bud Norris was scratched that morning.
Harrell's command issues led to Houston's 11th loss in 13 games despite the club out-hitting Baltimore 7-3.
Jose Altuve drove in two runs and Jonathan Villar stole the spotlight -- literally -- with a straight steal of home in the third inning. He snuck down the third-base line and raced home when Chen went into his windup and slid in safely as the ball struck the back of his helmet.
Villar became the first Astros rookie to steal home since Craig Biggio on July 13, 1989 against the Philadelphia Phillies.
"He's a baseball player, very intuitive to what's going on," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "He pays attention to detail and he's not afraid to make a mistake, which also allows him to play the game at a really high speed."
Despite Villar's exciting play, Houston lost for the 21st time in 26 games and is 0-7 all-time in Baltimore. The Orioles have won nine of the past 10 meetings overall.
Looking to rebound tonight for the Orioles will be Miguel Gonzalez, who faces the Astros for the second time in his career. The first came in Houston on June 6, when the right-hander allowed a run over six innings with seven strikeouts in a 3-1 win.
Gonzalez had a three-decision winning streak snapped on Thursday with a 7-1 setback in Kansas City. He allowed a season-high six runs on eight hits and a walk over 4 2/3 innings, his shortest outing of the season.
The 29-year-old also failed to log at least six innings of work for the first time in 10 starts, falling to 8-4 this year with a 3.69 earned run average in 18 outings.
"It was a tough one tonight," said Gonzalez. "It was one of those days. You just have to continue to battle."
With the Astros scratching left-hander and former Oriole Erik Bedard from tonight's contest, 24-year-old Brett Oberholtzer will make his first career Major League start instead.
Like Norris, Bedard is a candidate to be traded before the deadline.
A former eighth-round pick of the Atlanta Braves in 2008, Oberholtzer was one of the players acquired by Houston in a trade with the Braves on July 31, 2011 for Michael Bourn. He got his first taste of MLB action this season with three relief appearances for the Astros, giving up six runs and 11 hits over 7 1/3 innings without a decision.
The young lefty was recalled on July 27 from Triple-A Oklahoma City, where he is 6-6 this season with a 4.37 ERA in 16 starts. He has not pitched in the majors since July 5.
07/31 14:38:46 ET