HOUSTON (AP) — Evan Gattis is proving how valuable he is at catcher for the Houston Astros.
Gattis hit a two-run homer and Luis Valbuena had a tiebreaking solo shot in the sixth inning that gave the Astros a 4-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday night.
Baltimore tied the score 3-3 with a two-run sixth, and Valbuena homered for the second straight day with an opposite-field drive, with two outs to left-center field off Tyler Wilson (2-3).
Gattis has four homers and six RBIs in eight games and is batting .355 since his return from Double-A Corpus Christi, where he went to prepare to play catcher in Houston after not working behind the plate since 2014.
Gattis, who missed the first two weeks of the season recovering from sports hernia surgery, hit just one homer in the 20 games before his trip the minors after leading the Astros with 27 home runs last season.
“He’s been good,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “He tuned himself up pretty well in his stint in Double-A and almost acted as if it was a spring training warmup for him. He’s a real threat in the middle of the order. He didn’t lead our team in home runs by accident.”
Houston starter Collin McHugh allowed three runs and eight hits while striking out a season-high 10 in 5 1/3 innings. Pat Neshek (2-0) got the last two outs of the sixth, and Luke Gregerson allowed one hit in a scoreless ninth for his 10th save in 13 chances.
McHugh raved about the work of Gattis behind the plate.
“It’s good to get him back there and get his feet back under him,” McHugh said. “He thinks through a game really well. He knows hitters really well and it’s a pleasure to have him and Jason (Castro) back there. That tandem is tough to beat.”
Wilson allowed four runs — three earned — and six hits in six innings, losing his second straight decision.
Baltimore struck out 18 times on Wednesday after whiffing a season-high 19 times in a 3-2, 13-inning loss Tuesday. The 37 strikeouts for Houston pitchers tied the two-game franchise record, set against the Chicago Cubs on May 30-31, 2003.
“It’s been a struggle,” designated hitter Mark Trumbo said “But that’s part of the deal. It’s not going to go your way all the time. This is just one of those little ruts that we’re in.”
Manny Machado doesn’t think the Orioles are pressing at the plate despite the excessive strikeouts the past two games.
“For what? Why? Strikeouts are part of the game,” he said. “Have to keep swinging the bats.”
Machado and Jonathan Schoop hit consecutive doubles in the first, and George Springer’s RBI single tied the score in the third.
Colby Rasmus reached on Wilson’s error in the fourth, and Gattis homered into the left-field seats for a 3-1 lead.
Chris Davis and Trumbo hit consecutive singles starting the sixth, and left fielder Tony Kemp allowed the ball to glance off his glove for an error that advanced the runners. Davis scored on a wild pitch and Pedro Alvarez hit a chopper for a tying single that chased McHugh.
Neshek allowed a two-out double by Hyun Soo Kim and intentionally walked Machado before retiring Schoop.
Orioles: SS J.J. Hardy, who has been on the disabled list since May 2 with a fractured left foot, started doing some workouts this week, but isn’t yet ready for full weight-bearing activities. But he should progress to that soon. “Structurally he’s fine,” manager Buck Showalter said. “That thing’s just about healed. So I think that should happen shortly.”
Astros: OF Carlos Gomez, who is on the disabled list with a bruised left ribcage, went 1 for 4 with a solo home run in his second rehabilitation start for Double-A Corpus Christi on Wednesday night. He’ll likely make several more starts there before returning to Houston.
Orioles: Kevin Gausman (0-1, 2.70) is scheduled to make his seventh start on Thursday. Gausman lost his first game, but hasn’t factored in the decision in any of his five starts since then. He allowed eight hits and one run in 6 2/3 innings of a 3-1 win over the Angels in his previous outing.
Astros: Lance McCullers (0-1, 5.91) will make his third start on Thursday. McCullers, who spent the early part of the season on the disabled list with soreness in his right shoulder, allowed five hits and two runs while striking out seven in six innings in his previous start, but took the loss in a 2-1 win by the Rangers.
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