Orioles-Astros Preview

The Associated Press

With Dallas Keuchel on the mound, the Houston Astros would appear to be in good shape to continue their surge.

The left-hander tries to win a fifth straight start while looking to help the Astros win eight in a row for the first time in six years Saturday against the visiting Baltimore Orioles, who hope to avoid a season-high fifth consecutive defeat.

Keuchel (6-2, 2.55 ERA) has allowed four earned runs in 34 1-3 innings while going 4-0 since he gave up four runs in six innings of a 9-8 loss to Seattle on May 3. He's pitched into the ninth in three straight outings and recorded his second complete game during that span Sunday - allowing an unearned run while throwing a four-hitter in a 4-1 victory over the Mariners.

''He is definitely in a groove right now. It's a joy to watch,'' manager Bo Porter said.

After allowing an average of 3.43 walks per nine innings in his first two seasons, Keuchel ranks among the major league leaders at 1.53 in 2014. He's issued one walk and struck out 28 over the last four contests.

''I'm just trying to attack the zone,'' he said. ''I'm not trying to be too fine anymore."

In his only previous outing versus Baltimore in 2013, Keuchel allowed one run and two walks in six innings of an 11-7 victory.

Houston pitchers have a 1.29 ERA while allowing 12 runs - nine earned - over the last seven games. Brett Oberholtzer yielded one run and four hits in seven innings and Jonathan Villar broke an 0-for-26 slump with a go-ahead RBI double in the seventh of Friday's 2-1 victory.

One-half game ahead of last-place Tampa Bay in the AL, Houston (24-32) is in position to win eight in a row for the first time since doing it twice in 2008.

''We're just out there having fun," outfielder Robbie Grossman said.

Jose Altuve is batting .382 during a 12-game home hitting streak, and .459 (17 for 37) in nine career games versus Baltimore (26-27).

He's 2 for 5 against the Orioles' Chris Tillman (4-2, 4.97), who tossed a five-hitter during a 4-0 win at Kansas City on May 16, then gave up 14 runs, 14 hits and walked seven in 6 2-3 innings while not factoring in the decision of his next two starts. He allowed six runs and four walks in 6 2-3 innings of a 7-6, 10-inning victory at Milwaukee on Monday.

"It's something he and we are going to have to get corrected or it's going to be a problem," manager Buck Showalter told the Orioles' official website. "It's frustrating because we see what he's capable of."

The right-hander gave up a solo homer and three other hits while striking out eight in seven innings of a 4-1 road victory last season in his first outing against the Astros. He allowed a three-run, first-inning homer to Jason Castro and walked five over five innings of a 5-2 home loss to them May 11.

Baltimore has recorded two of the seven runs scored in the first two of this series, and five in its last three contests.

"We're capable of better," Showalter said.

Batting .450 (18 for 40) during an 11-game hitting streak, Baltimore's Nelson Cruz is 4 for 9 with a home run versus Keuchel.

What to Read Next