HOUSTON (AP) — With the top of Houston’s batting order struggling Friday night, the players at the bottom came through to help the Astros keep their winning streak intact.
Jonathan Villar broke an 0-for-26 slump with a go-ahead RBI double in the seventh inning and the Astros won their seventh straight game with a 2-1 victory over the Baltimore Orioles in the annual Major League Baseball Civil Rights game.
It is the first time Houston, losers of 100-plus games the last three seasons, has won seven straight since 2010.
Brett Oberholtzer (2-6) allowed four hits and a run in seven innings for the win and Chad Qualls got the last four outs for his fifth save.
“Everybody did their part tonight,” Houston manager Bo Porter said. “Oberholtzer was outstanding. The bullpen came in and was able to close it out and hold the game right there. Overall, just a great team win.”
The Astros had one hit before Matt Dominguez doubled to start the seventh. Alex Presley singled with one out but was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double.
Robbie Grossman followed with a double, which sailed just out of the reach of a leaping Steve Pearce in left field, to tie it 1-all.
Villar’s ground-rule double bounced into the bullpen in right-center field to put Houston on top and chase Miguel Gonzalez (3-4).
“Extremely happy for (Villar) and Grossman,” Porter said. “Both of them have been kind of scuffling and for them to be the two offensive heroes tonight, it definitely feels good.”
Houston’s Nos. 7, 8 and 9 hitters combined for three hits Friday night while the top three had just one.
“I feel like we’re never out of a game,” said Grossman, who was recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma City on Monday. “We’re just out there having fun.”
Adam Jones doubled to start the second inning and scored on a one-out single by J.J. Hardy to put Baltimore up 1-0. But the Orioles couldn’t do much else against Oberholtzer as they tied a season high with their fourth straight loss.
“We’ve scored five runs in the last three games,” manager Buck Showalter said. “You tip your cap to the other pitcher, but we’re capable of better.”
Gonzalez kept Houston off-balance early and didn’t allow a hit until Jose Altuve legged out an infield single on a grounder to shortstop with one out in the sixth.
Gonzalez yielded five hits and two runs in 6 2-3 innings.
The Astros wore the uniforms of the Houston Eagles and the Orioles donned the uniforms of the Baltimore Elite Giants of the Negro Leagues for the game.
Houston rookie George Springer, who had hit seven homers in his previous seven games, went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts to snap an 11-game hitting streak.
Oberholtzer had retired five straight before Nelson Cruz extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a single to start the fourth inning. But he still faced the minimum in the inning thanks to a double play.
He threw perfect frames in both the fifth and sixth and sat down the first two batters in the seventh before a single by Chris Davis. Hardy’s fly out ended the inning and Oberholtzer’s night.
Gonzalez retired the first eight batters before walking Villar with two outs in the third. But Altuve grounded out to end that inning. He plunked Jason Castro with two outs in the fourth before Pearce robbed Dominguez of a hit with a diving catch to end the inning.
NOTES: Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Berry Gordy and Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Brown were honored at a luncheon on Friday in conjunction with the game for their contributions to the civil rights movement. Author and poet Maya Angelou, who died on Wednesday at 86, was honored posthumously. … Former heavyweight boxing champion George Foreman threw out the ceremonial first pitch. … The series continues Saturday when Baltimore RHP Chris Tillman opposes LHP Dallas Keuchel. Keuchel was named the AL player of the week last week after going 2-0 with a 1.02 ERA in two starts. … Baltimore C Matt Wieters, on the 15-day DL since May 11 with a right elbow strain, made 25 throws before Friday’s game and Showalter said he will throw again Sunday.
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