Astros-Orioles to finally get under way Friday

STATS/TSX

BALTIMORE -- The defending World Series champion Houston Astros close the 2018 regular season with their only trip to Baltimore this weekend, and the first game of their four-game series with the Orioles now will be played Friday at 7:05 p.m. ET at Camden Yards.

Rain washed out Thursday's scheduled series opener, and it will be made up as part of a Saturday doubleheader. That will be a straight twinbill, which starts at 4:05 p.m. ET with the second game starting about 30 minutes after the first contest ends. There was not much chance of getting a game in Thursday as it rained all day, with the postponement coming about 30 minutes before the scheduled start.

The starters will remain the same Friday. Gerrit Cole (15-5, 2.92 ERA) goes for Houston while David Hess (3-10, 5.14) starts for the Orioles.

Astros manager AJ Hinch said there were several reasons for doing the doubleheader Saturday especially since there's a chance of rain again Friday.

"Obviously, you want to do your best to play and keep the integrity of the schedule, but the worst outcome would have been to play a partial night or play in miserable conditions with the threat of injury," Hinch told reporters. "I think it worked out for both teams. Those guys are coming off 18 innings ... and we certainly don't want to play on a wet field."

Houston already has clinched the American League West and will play the Indians in the Division Series. That starts on Oct. 5.

Cole has given an already-strong Astros' starting staff even more punch this season. He has won five decisions in a row and last lost on Aug. 10. This will be the first time Cole has pitched against the Orioles in his career.

Hess has been up and down during his rookie season. The right-hander has gone 1-5 in the past two months but pitched effectively on several occasions.

This will be the first time he's ever gone against the Astros.

Houston (100-58) is coming off a 3-1 loss to the Blue Jays Wednesday in a game that really meant nothing. The Astros actually clinched the division title very early Wednesday morning when Oakland lost to Seattle.

However, Houston officially celebrated in the locker room after the loss in Toronto, and now will prepare for this four-game series in Baltimore that really holds little meaning.

Baltimore is starting the final series of a historically poor season. To make matters worse, the Orioles have run out of pitchers at times, especially in the starting rotation, which is a big reason they went with a committee approach in Wednesday's day-night doubleheader in Boston.

The Orioles are coming into this series after splitting that doubleheader. Boston crushed the Orioles 19-3 in the first game -- the biggest margin of defeat for the Orioles (46-112) in this forgetful season. However, Baltimore bounced back and pulled out a 10-3 victory in the nightcap, thanks to seven runs in the final three innings.

The biggest Orioles question might be whether manager Buck Showalter will return next year, but the skipper brushed that off when the media talked with him about it Thursday.

"Whatever stuff like that, we all have some private thoughts and emotions about that, but I don't think it serves the organization well for me to be worried about that right now," Showalter told the media. "We've got some things to do these last four games."

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