HOUSTON - The Orioles' desire to model themselves after the Houston Astros ties strongly to the draft-and-develop model that turned Houston into a championship franchise. Sunday's series finale showed that the prospects acquired through trades could prove as valuable as the ones Baltimore adds via the draft.
Making his major league debut for Houston, Yordan Alvarez slugged a two-run home run for his first career hit to break a scoreless tie in the Astros' 4-0 victory Sunday at Minute Maid Park. At 21, Alvarez is only eight months older than Adley Rutschman, who the Orioles selected with the draft's No. 1 overall pick Monday. Houston acquired Alvarez from the Los Angeles Dodgers for reliever Josh Fields in August 2016.
The Orioles are still waiting to bear fruit on their flurry of trades from last summer, acquisitions performed by their previous front-office regime, but the hope is that such moves at some point produce players like Alvarez.
Alvarez's home run came two pitches after Yuli Gurriel provided the Astros' first hit off Dylan Bundy. But even as Bundy continued a monthlong stretch of impressive starts, the Orioles bats could muster little against old friend Wade Miley.
In a year and a half in Baltimore during the 2016 and 2017 seasons, Miley had a 5.75 ERA. He lowered it to 3.14 this season with Houston.
Hanser Alberto continued his success against left-handed pitching by beginning the game with a single, but he was unsuccessful in an attempt to steal second. He singled twice more off Miley, doing so behind a single by Richie Martin in the third, but Trey Mancini followed by hitting into a double play both times.
The Orioles got Miley out of the game in the seventh, loading the bases with no outs, but Ryan Pressly, another successful Houston trade acquisition, retired the next three Baltimore batters to keep the game scoreless.
Baltimore has dropped the rubber game in its past five series and hasn't won a series since April 22-24.
Bundy used his fastball more frequently than he had in recent outings, but he carried over the success those other starts featured.
Bundy threw a fastball on 56% of his 91 pitches Sunday, the first time in five starts that more than half of his pitches were fastball. Yet with six innings in which he allowed two earned runs _ both coming on the homer by Alvarez _ he has a 3.02 ERA in his past seven starts, a stretch dating to the end of April.
Sunday, he retired the first eight Astros before a walk to No. 9 hitter Myles Straw. He bounced back with a three-pitch strikeout to end the inning, then started the fourth with two more. Gurriel hit a 1-0 fastball clean up the middle, then Alvarez homered on a changeup down in the zone. Bundy finished off the inning with another strikeout, the last of his six.
The Astros added an unearned run off him in the sixth. Derek Fisher seemingly provided a gift by hitting a grounder in a 3-0 count, but shortstop Martin's throw pulled Mancini off first base. Fisher stole second and took third when catcher Pedro Severino's throw went into center. He scored on Josh Reddick's bloop single into center.
With the Astros starting left-handers Saturday and Sunday, Orioles manager Brandon Hyde held Chris Davis out of the lineup in consecutive games.
He pinch-hit Chance Sisco, who, like Davis, hits left-handed, in place of Martin against Houston right-hander Hector Rondon in the eighth Sunday. In the bottom half of the inning, Sisco remained in the game at first base, Davis' natural position. It was Sisco's first professional appearance, in the minors or majors, at first.