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Davis relaxes, homers for Orioles

The SportsXchange

BALTIMORE -- Chris Davis entered Tuesday's games determined to relax a bit at the plate. He had gone 10 games without a home run after hitting 37 before the All-Star break and wanted to dial back his intensity a bit.

The move worked as Davis snapped the recent dry spell with a two-run homer in the sixth inning that gave the Baltimore Orioles the lead, and they held on for a 4-3 victory over the Houston Astros at Camden Yards.

Davis struck out for the 23rd straight game in his first at-bat. However, his two-run homer to left off Lucas Harrell (5-11) ended the right-hander's night and gave the Orioles (59-48) a 4-3 lead. Davis is now got a major-league best 38 homers and boosted his RBI total to 99.

"That was my goal today, just to be a little more patient," Davis said. "I've been way too aggressive and way too aggressive on balls out of the zone."

Orioles manager Buck Showalter said he never doubted Davis would break out of the recent slump.

"I thought the key to the game -- obviously," Showalter said. "We all know how well Chris has hit. He's been so consistent. Whatever's going on, he's hitting .300 and has almost 100 RBIs, so it's not like a real challenging decision to write his name in the lineup."

Showalter tried to give Davis a bit of a break, starting him at DH one day after the Orioles were off.

The Orioles needed the Davis homer because they could not do much else against Harrell or the other three Houston pitchers. Baltimore finished with only three hits, but one of them was J.J. Hardy's two-run single in the fourth that cut Houston's early lead to 3-2.

Wei-Yin Chen (6-3) kept the Orioles in the game and eventually got the win. Chen allowed three runs and seven hits in 7 1/3 innings. He struck out nine and walked just one. He really only had problems in one inning, the third, when the left-hander allowed all three of his runs.

Chen threw 119 pitches before Darren O'Day came on to finish the eighth. Jim Johnson closed it for his major league-best 35th save.

"I felt really good and really strong today besides the third inning," Chen said. "To be honest with you, I'm a little tired right now. This was the first time I threw that many (pitches) in the U.S., but I definitely felt really strong and really good."

Nick Markakis scored in front of Davis after walking to start the sixth as the Astros were leading 3-2. Houston (35-70) took a 3-0 lead earlier in the game but couldn't hold it as the Orioles snapped a two-game losing streak.

Those walks gave the Orioles a hand in rallying, especially from Harrell. He has run into a lot of trouble with walks this season and it happened again in this game as he walked five and struck out three. Of Harrell's 101 pitches, just 51 were strikes.

Bud Norris was originally scheduled to start, but the Astros scratched him earlier in the day, fueling more speculation about his being traded before Wednesday's deadline.

The Astros took a 3-0 lead thanks to a big third inning. They got four consecutive one-out singles, capped by Jose Altuve's seeing-eye grounder just past Hardy at short. The two-run hit gave Houston a 2-0 lead.

Jonathan Villar made it 3-0 later in the inning with a surprisingly easy steal of home off Chen. The rookie shortstop appeared to notice Chen taking a long time getting ready to pitch to Justin Maxwell and took off, making the steal with two outs.

"He's not afraid to make a mistake which allows him to play the game at a very high speed," Houston manager Bo Porter said. "I actually thought he was going to do it the pitch before that.

"I cannot say that I've witnessed a steal of home that clean before (in the majors)."

The Orioles started to rally on the Hardy two-run single in the fourth. Harrell walked the bases loaded and Hardy singled up the middle to cut Houston's lead to 3-2.

That was Baltimore's only hit through the first five innings.

NOTES: Manny Machado was hit on the arm during batting practice but was checked out before the game and played. Adam Jones hit the ball, and Machado appeared fine during the game. ... The Astros called up two pitchers from the minors, promoting RHP Chia-Jen Lo from Double-A Corpus Christi and RHP Josh Zeid from Triple-A Oklahoma City. When Lo gets into a game, he will be the first Taiwanese player to play for the Astros. ... In another move, Houston optioned RHP Hector Ambriz to Oklahoma City. Ambriz had a 2-4 record and a 5.70 ERA in 43 relief appearances this season.
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