Orioles end Astros’ seven-game winning streak

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As strange as it sounds, the Astros hadn’t lost in over a week entering Saturday’s game against the Orioles. They hadn’t lost since May 23 in Seattle, to be exact. The ‘stros salvaged the final two games of their four-game set with the Mariners for a series split, then swept the Royals in Kansas City, and took the first two games of a four-game set at home against the Orioles. Even better, they had Dallas Keuchel — surprisingly one of baseball’s better starters through the season’s first two months — taking the hill in search of eight consecutive wins on Saturday.

It was not to be. While Keuchel pitched well, allowing three runs over six innings, Orioles starter Chris Tillman was even better, limiting the Astros to one run over 6 2/3 innings. The O’s bullpen nailed down the 4-1 win and at long last, the Astros lost a baseball game.

Over their seven-game winning streak, the Astros outscored the opposition 39-12 and picked up three games in the AL West. The 24-33 Astros are presently in a virtual tie with the 23-32 Rays for the worst record in the American League.

Rookie outfielder George Springer had a lot to do with the Astros’ success, .299/.413/.753 with 10 home runs and 23 RBI dating back to May 8. Not to be forgotten, second baseman Jose Altuve was slashing .369/.405/.500 with 11 stolen bases in the month of May prior to going 0-for-4 on Saturday.

Bud Norris exits outing with right knee soreness

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Angels’ right-handed reliever Bud Norris made his 23rd appearance of the season on Friday, and after just three pitches, he was done for the night. He worked a 2-1 count to Marlins’ Dee Gordon in the eighth inning, then promptly exited the field after experiencing some tightness in his right knee. Neither Norris nor manager Mike Scioscia believe the injury is cause for major concern, and the 32-year-old right-hander admitted that it may have had something to do with his lack of stretching before he took the mound. For now, he’s day-to-day with right knee soreness, with the hope that the issue doesn’t escalate over the next few days.

While the Angels are lucky to have avoided serious injury, they’ll need Norris to pitch at 100% if they want to stay competitive within the AL West. They currently sit a full nine games behind the league-leading Astros, and haven’t been helping their cause after taking five losses in their last eight games. Friday’s 8-5 finale marked their third consecutive loss of the week.

 

When healthy, Norris has been one of the better arms in the Angels’ bullpen. Through 23 2/3 innings, he’s pitched to a 2.66 ERA, 3.4 BB/9 and an outstanding 11.8 SO/9 in 23 outings. The righty hasn’t allowed a single run in four straight appearances, recording three saves and helping the club clinch four wins in that span. This is his second setback of the year after sustaining a partial fingernail tear on his pitching hand during spring training.

Video: Max Scherzer sets record with 13-strikeout outing

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Max Scherzer is a force to be reckoned with. The Nationals’ right-hander delivered a season-high 13 strikeouts against the Padres on Friday, locking down his fifth win and his fourth double-digit strikeout performance of the year.

More remarkably, it was also the 53rd double-digit strikeout performance of Scherzer’s career, tying Clayton Kershaw for the most 10+ strikeout appearances by an active major league pitcher. Chris Sale is a distant third, with 43 to his name, though he’s been making considerable strides to catch up so far this spring.

Scherzer took the Padres to task on Friday night, whiffing 13 of 31 batters during his 108-pitch outing. He started strong, catching Allen Cordoba swinging on a 1-2 count to start the game and keeping the game scoreless until Ryan Schimpf unleashed a home run in the fourth inning. That was the first and final run the Padres managed off of Scherzer, who retired 14 consecutive batters following the blast and came one out shy of a complete game in the ninth inning. (Fittingly, Koda Glover polished off the win with a final strikeout, bringing the total to 14 on the night.)

It’ll take more than one stellar start to advance Scherzer and Kershaw on the all-time list, however. Their 53-game record ranks 13th, about 159 games behind second-place Hall of Fame hurler Randy Johnson and a full 162 games shy of the inimitable Nolan Ryan.