Astros-Orioles Preview

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BALTIMORE -- After struggling earlier in the week, the Baltimore Orioles' bats finally came alive in the series opener against the Houston Astros.

Baltimore will look to keep that momentum going Friday.

After scoring four runs in two games against Boston, the Orioles managed 18 hits in the 13-5 victory over the Astros on Thursday. Baltimore slugged six home runs and leads the majors with 183.

"It was big," said shortstop J.J. Hardy, who went deep twice. "We haven't been swinging the bats all that great, and to bust out like that. Hopefully, it keeps going and we can keep that confidence."

The Orioles have spent 111 of 136 days in first place of the AL East this season, but have struggled since the All-Star break, going 16-17. However, with the win Thursday, the Orioles moved into a second-place tie with the Red Sox and trail the Toronto Blue Jays by 1 1/2 games in the American League East.

Houston has lost five straight and is mired in third place in the AL West behind Texas and Seattle. The Astros, however, are still within striking distance in the wild card standings.

"When you play these four-game series, the first couple of games are key because it puts you in a powerful position to potentially win the series," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "We know these guys are in the middle of this race as well. I think it tells us how muddy the waters are going to be when it comes down to this. As much as we'd like to watch what Baltimore is doing, or Detroit, or Toronto, or Boston, or Seattle, the teams that are in this race, we need to take care of ourselves. We need to win our own games and not worry about what everyone else is doing."

Left-hander Wade Miley (7-10, 5.23 ERA) is still looking for his first win with the Orioles since being acquired from Seattle at the trade deadline. Miley has taken the loss in two of his past three starts. He didn't get a decision in his previous outing Saturday against the Giants when he allowed seven runs (six earned) in 4 1/3 innings. In his three starts with the Orioles, Miley has a 7.04 ERA, with a 8:5 strikeout to walk ratio.

Collin McHugh (7-10, 4.70) gets the start for Houston and tries to snap a four-game losing streak. McHugh has not earned a win since July 23 against the Angels. In his last start, McHugh gave up three runs on five hits over 5 1/3 innings in a 4-2 loss to the Blue Jays.

McHugh will be challenged to contain the Orioles' powerful lineup, which especially thrives at hitter-friendly Camden Yards. Baltimore owns the best home record in the American League at 40-19.