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MLB: Baltimore Orioles at New York YankeesJun 20, 2024; Bronx, New York, USA; Baltimore Orioles first baseman Ryan O’Hearn (32) hits a two-RBI single against the New York Yankees during the eighth inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

One day after their thrilling extra-inning win over the New York Yankees, the Orioles left no doubt in the series finale Thursday.

Baltimore crushed the Yankees 17-5 to close to within a half-game of New York for first place in the American League East. The Orioles, who begin a three-game road series against the Houston Astros on Friday, recorded a season high in runs and hits (19). They scored all those runs despite stranding 14 baserunners.

Now they’ll try to continue that success against another one of the AL’s most dominant teams in recent years as they seek their second consecutive division crown. Their handiwork against the Yankees only reinforced their viability as a title contender.

“I don’t know what kind of statement we’re making,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said after Baltimore improved to 16-0-6 in its past 22 series against AL East opponents. “I know teams think we’re a good team, and our record shows it. The way we’ve been playing against our division and how we’ve been playing baseball the last couple years, everybody kind of knows.

“We’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing.”

Right-hander Grayson Rodriguez (8-2, 3.20 ERA) will start the series opener for the Orioles on Friday. He allowed two runs on seven hits and one walk with six strikeouts over seven innings in a 6-2 win over the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday. It marked the third time in his career that Rodriguez has completed at least seven innings. He is 3-0 with a 2.33 ERA in three starts this month.

Rodriguez will make his second career start against the Astros. He did not factor into the decision of a 7-6 home loss on Aug. 8, 2023, after allowing two runs on six hits and two walks with four strikeouts over six innings.

Right-hander Jake Bloss is scheduled to make his major league debut for the Astros on Friday. He posted a 1.61 ERA and an 0.716 WHIP in eight starts with Double-A Corpus Christi across 44 2/3 innings. Bloss tossed the first 6 1/3 innings of a combined no-hitter with Cesar Gomez against San Antonio on Saturday. Bloss recorded six strikeouts and three walks in the first nine-inning no-hitter in the Hooks’ 19-year history.

Bloss, who turns 23 on Sunday, will replace veteran right-hander Justin Verlander in the rotation after Verlander landed on the injured list with neck discomfort on Tuesday. Houston selected Bloss in the third round (99th overall) in the 2023 draft out of Georgetown. MLB Pipeline designated Bloss as the 10th-best prospect in the Houston organization, fourth among pitchers.

Bloss’ success against the Orioles could depend on early run support and effective work from Astros relievers. Tayler Scott, Bryan Abreu, Ryan Pressly and closer Josh Hader combined to allow one hit and one walk while recording seven strikeouts over 4 2/3 shutout innings in the Astros’ 5-3 win over the Chicago White Sox in the rubber match of that three-game series on Thursday.

The Houston bullpen worked 9 2/3 scoreless innings in the series and surrendered two hits and two walks with 12 strikeouts. With Bloss making his debut, more of the same might be needed.

“Tremendous job,” Astros manager Joe Espada said of his bullpen.

–Field Level Media

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