BALTIMORE (AP) — The Houston Astros gasped, watched in dismay and jumped for joy in the span of a few minutes.
When the unusual sequence of events was complete, the American League’s best ballclub was well on its way to another victory.
Marwin Gonzalez stepped in for injured Colin Moran and delivered a pinch-hit, three-run homer in the sixth inning to propel Houston past the Baltimore Orioles 8-4 on Saturday night.
Moran fouled a ball off his left eye and had difficulty standing before being carted from the field with a towel pressed against his bloody face.
”It was a pretty scary incident,” manager A.J. Hinch said. ”I go on the field and he’s got blood on the face. Blood, it isn’t generally seen in our sport.”
Moran was taken to a hospital, where he was ”evaluated for everything from a concussion to a fracture,” Hinch said, adding that he expected the rookie to land on the disabled list.
After play resumed, Gonzalez ended a nine-pitch at-bat by driving a 2-2 offering from Darren O’Day (1-3) over the right-field wall and onto Eutaw Street. It was Houston’s first pinch-hit homer of the season, and it capped a five-run uprising that wiped out Baltimore’s 4-1 lead.
”The range of emotions goes to extreme thrill, for Marwin to come off the bench and work an at-bat,” Hinch said.
As he headed to the plate, Gonzalez knew he had to turn his attention toward getting a hit off O’Day.
”That was a scary moment for us,” Gonzalez said. ”I just focused to have a good at-bat, but I got a homer and that was even better for the team.”
O’Day also experienced an array of emotions – from bad to worse.
”I’ve had good friends who’ve had accidents like that and never knew if they were going to play again or didn’t get to play again, so I hope he’s OK,” the pitcher said. ”But as a professional you’ve got to try and block that out.”
Alex Bregman and Yuli Gurriel homered for the Astros, who will seek to complete a three-game sweep on Sunday. Houston has won eight straight over the Orioles spanning two seasons.
Astros right-hander Collin McHugh allowed four runs in 4 2/3 innings in his season debut and Francis Martes (3-0) pitched 2 1/3 innings of hitless relief.
McHugh went 19-7 in 2015 and 13-10 last year before being diagnosed with right shoulder tendinitis at spring training. He was shut down after one inning in a rehab start for Triple-A Fresno on April 6, returned to the mound on June 30 and pitched in four games with Double-A Corpus Christi before being activated Saturday.
McHugh showed no ill effects from the layoff – until the fifth inning. After issuing a leadoff walk to Seth Smith, he got two quick outs before it started to rain. An instant later, Adam Jones drove a 2-0 pitch into the left-field seats.
Manny Machado followed with a single and Jonathan Schoop chased McHugh with a shot that wasted no time clearing the left-field wall.
Gurriel shaved the margin with a two-run drive off Chris Tillman in the sixth, and Gonzalez completed the comeback.
”He fouled off some good pitches until he got a bad one,” O’Day said.
The Orioles vice president of baseball operations doesn’t sound like he’s going to be dealing away talent before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. ”We’re going to see what we can do this week to help our ballclub,” Dan Duquette told fans at the annual midseason ”State of the Orioles” session.
Astros: McHugh’s activation from the disabled list forced RHP Joe Musgrove (4-8, 6.12 ERA) out of the rotation. After Houston scored two in the ninth, Musgrove worked a perfect bottom half.
Orioles: RHP Mike Wright (right shoulder bursitis) was activated from the 10-day DL and optioned to Triple-A Norfolk. … INF Ryan Flaherty (shoulder) says he might be ready to return three games after his rehab assignment begins next Thursday. ”I can do everything. I’m just trying to build my arm strength up,” Flaherty said Saturday.
All-Star RHP Lance McCullers (7-2, 3.28 ERA) pitches for Houston on Sunday. He’s 3-0 in three career starts against Baltimore with 29 strikeouts in 20 innings. The Orioles will counter with RHP Dylan Bundy (9-8, 4.18 ERA), the only member of the starting rotation with a winning record.
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