HOUSTON -- The Astros had no shortage of opportunities to score runs in Thursday's 3-2 loss to the Orioles at Minute Maid Park, especially late in the game, when they've been prone to coming up with clutch hits this season.
The bulk of the missed chances came in the sixth and seventh innings, when the Astros had the first two runners on base each time and couldn't score. They wound up going 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and stranding seven on base, including three in the seventh.
"The sixth and the seventh were really the key innings," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "Both times we had the first two runners on base and walked away with nothing. They obviously did a good job of conserving the runs there. We need to find a way to scratch a run across and get some momentum on our side. Some missed opportunities there, and it's unfortunate because the game was there to win."
The game was tied at 2 until Adam Jones hit a long home run to left field off reliever Chad Qualls with two outs in the eighth. By the time Baltimore closer Zach Britton came into the game with one out in the eighth, Houston's offense had blown its best chances.
"You can't always get the big hit," right fielder George Springer said. "I think we've done a great job this year getting those guys in and today we didn't. It's all good."
Springer sparked a would-be really in the sixth when he drew a leadoff walk and went to third on a single by Jose Altuve. But Orioles starter Wei-Yin Chen came back to get Evan Gattis to pop out, Chris Carter to strike out and Luis Valbuena to strike out to strand runners at second and third.
In the seventh, Jonathan Villar led off with a walk and went to third on a Hank Conger double to left field. Third-base coach Gary Pettis was waving Villar home, but he stopped at third, which might have been the right play. Reliever Darren O'Day walked Colby Rasmus to load the bases, but he came back to strike out Springer and get Altuve to fly to center.
"You can't expect to win on a day like this when you squander some opportunities, both at the plate and on the mound," said starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel, who allowed six hits and two runs in six innings. "You're going to have those days and you're going to have to overcome those days and be a little bit better. Today was one of those days I had to be a little bit better, and we didn't take advantage of the opportunities we had at the plate.
"All in all, we won three out of four games. It would have been nice to have a sweep, but that's a quality team over there."
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.