Orioles-Astros Preview

The Associated Press

The Houston Astros have an important decision to make Thursday night when they get the top pick in the first-year entry draft for the second consecutive season.

The way the Astros are playing, they might not be in that position a year from now.

Houston goes for a ninth win in 11 games Thursday in the series finale against the Baltimore Orioles.

Whomever the Astros (22-38) take No. 1 after selecting shortstop Carlos Correa in that spot in 2012 will join an organization that's finished with the majors' worst record in each of the last two seasons. The Astros are on pace for a club-record third consecutive 100-loss season, but they're definitely not playing like the team that owns the AL's worst mark.

Houston hit six homers - its most since Aug. 9, 2006, and one shy of the team record - in Wednesday's 11-7 victory after being limited to five total hits in Tuesday's 4-1 series-opening loss that ended its season-best 6-0 run.

"You felt like you needed headphones or ear plugs in the dugout because everybody was hitting the ball hard," said J.D. Martinez, who hit a two-run homer to help Houston end a seven-game skid to Baltimore.

The Astros will close out their three-game homestand with Bud Norris (5-4, 3.39 ERA) getting his first look at the Orioles (33-26).

The right-hander is 1-0 with a 0.95 ERA in his last three outings after scattering four hits and three walks in six innings in Saturday's 2-0 road win over the Los Angeles Angels.

"He pitched with a lot of energy, a lot of passion," manager Bo Porter told the Astros' official website after Norris ended a three-start winless stretch.

The Orioles could use that from Miguel Gonzalez (2-2, 4.33) as they try to avoid back-to-back losses for the first time since a season-worst six-game skid May 14-20.

There were discussions about pushing back the right-hander and giving the ball to Jason Hammel on Thursday, but Gonzalez will get the chance to win his first game in six starts. He has three consecutive no-decisions after throwing a season high-tying 105 pitches in Friday's 7-5 victory over Detroit.

Gonzalez set down the side in order just once in six innings, giving up a season-high five runs while walking three for a second straight start.

"I thought he did what he could do to keep it close," manager Buck Showalter told the Orioles' official website.

Gonzalez will be throwing to Texas native Taylor Teagarden as he makes his first appearance versus Houston. Teagarden, activated from the disabled list (dislocated left thumb) prior to this series, will replace Matt Wieters, who could still DH after hitting a two-run homer Wednesday.

Nick Markakis will miss his second straight game following the death of his grandmother.

Baltimore's Chris Davis, the majors' leader with 20 homers, will try to run his modest hitting streak to six after going 2 for 5 with a double Wednesday. That double made Davis the first player with 20 homers and 20 doubles before the team's 60th game.

The only two active Orioles who have faced Norris are Nate McLouth (0 for 6) and J.J. Hardy (1 for 5), and the two are a combined 7 for 17 in this series.

The Astros are 4-1 at home against the Orioles.

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