The Houston Astros may need a blowout to end their season-worst seven-game losing streak.
With the Baltimore Orioles continuing their success in tight games, the Astros hope their slumping lineup can finally break out when the teams conclude a three-game interleague series Thursday night.
Houston’s skid is its worst since a 10-game losing streak in May 2007. The Astros have tied a franchise record with five straight losses in interleague play, and are 3-12 in June.
“Panic is the wrong word, but certainly it’s not the same feeling as early May when you’re playing well and pulling games out,” Astros slugger Lance Berkman said. “That’s the bad part of this job. In a rut like this, you’re miserable and everybody wants to do something extra to help. You have to kind of fight against that. It happens every year and it happens to every team.”
Houston (33-39) has scored one run or none in three of its last five games, and hasn’t crossed the plate more than six times since beating St. Louis 8-2 on May 27.
The Astros could use a lead that large as they try to avoid being swept by the Orioles (36-34), who are 17-10 in one-run games after going 13-31 last year. Baltimore has played four straight one-run contests, winning three.
Two of those victories have been in this series. Baltimore rallied for a 6-5 win on Tuesday night before taking the middle game 2-1 in 10 innings Wednesday night, with Kevin Millar singling in the winning run.
“It’s one of those things right now,” Millar said. “You don’t want to make a living doing that. We’re just going through a stage where every game’s a battle, every game’s a dogfight.”
The Orioles haven’t swept an interleague series since taking three straight at home against the Astros from June 13-15, 2005.
Baltimore, though, may need a big game at the plate if it hopes to keep the series finale close because Brian Burres (5-5, 5.28 ERA) is 1-1 with a 12.00 ERA in his last four starts.
The left-hander gave up six runs and eight hits in six innings against Pittsburgh on Friday, but earned a win as the Orioles scored eight unanswered runs in a 9-6 victory. He continued his struggles at home, where he is 3-2 with a 7.31 ERA in six starts.
After walking six batters in his last two outings, Burres has been working on his control.
“I feel a little better as far as what I need to do to locate my pitches better,” Burres said. “I’m looking forward to going out there and getting the ball.”
Burres is 2-0 with a 5.63 ERA in four interleague starts. This will be his first appearance against Houston.
He will be facing a Houston lineup that has struggled despite boasting one of the majors’ hottest hitters. Berkman hit his 20th home run and had two of Houston’s five hits Wednesday. The veteran first baseman is batting .408 with 11 HRs and 32 RBIs since May 3.
Miguel Tejada, meanwhile, is 0-for-7 in his first series against his former team since being traded to Houston in December. He’ll be at shortstop Thursday behind Shawn Chacon (2-2, 4.69), who pitched well in his last start, allowing one run and three hits in 6 1-3 innings as the Astros lost 2-1 to the New York Yankees on Friday.
The right-hander had lost two straight outings, surrendering 11 runs in six innings in that span.
Chacon is 5-7 with a 7.07 ERA in 13 starts and 14 relief appearances in interleague play, and is 2-1 with a 4.02 ERA in two starts and two relief appearances versus the Orioles.