By Christian Boutwell and Richard Dean
HOUSTON -- For the second game in a row, the Astros pounced on the Orioles quickly. The Astros hit for a team cycle in the second inning and added a half-dozen runs, deflating Baltimore and easing into their fourth series sweep this season with an 8-4 win Sunday afternoon at Minute Maid Park.
Even after the Orioles -- who have now lost seven in a row -- scored quickly in the first inning on a two-run homer by Jonathan Schoop, the Astros responded.
"The explosive inning we had in the second is obviously the huge difference in the game," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "Obviously, it's huge to see, not just to pick up Lance, but just continue to play pretty exceptional baseball. We have a deep roster, and we have a lot of guys that can step up and play the game well."
Sunday marked Houston's 35th win, the most in the Majors, and Lance McCullers Jr.'s sixth win. McCullers completed six innings on 105 pitches. He struck out eight and allowed five hits and three runs (two earned), his first earned runs since May 1.
Orioles starter Alec Asher lasted just two frames, yielding six runs on six hits. Ubaldo Jimenez, who was moved Friday to a relief role, picked up the slack in the 'pen. He tossed six innings of two-run ball, striking out five.
"Everyone's a little frustrated. It's tough not to [be]," Asher said. "We're a really good team, we'll get through it. Every team hits a rough patch. We'd rather be hitting ours now than later in the year."
Mark Trumbo also homered for Baltimore, his seventh of the season, in the eighth inning.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Schoop's shot: With a two-run home run in the Orioles' second at-bat, Schoop ended McCullers' MLB-best streak of 22 scoreless innings and put the Orioles ahead. Schoop's blast traveled 335 feet to Minute Maid Park's Crawford Boxes, according to Statcast™.
"It took me a little bit to kind of get in the groove," McCullers said. "Unfortunately, they capitalized with a homer there."
Two doubles, tie game: Trailing 3-0 into the bottom of the second inning, Gonzalez and Gurriel followed a single from Correa and a walk by designated hitter Carlos Beltran with consecutive doubles to tie the game at 3. Gonzalez's two-run double and Gurriel's RBI double landed in almost the same spot, deep in Minute Maid's left-center-field corner, and they kickstarted the Astros' six-run inning.
"That was clutch," Correa said. "That's what this team is about, we never give up. We've been coming from behind all year long. Hopefully we can keep doing that."
In the third inning, Evan Gattis reached first on a 5-4 fielder's choice. In the next at-bat, Gonzalez grounded to Jimenez, forcing Gattis to move to second. Before a challenge by Hinch on the tag at second, Gattis was ruled out on the field. The call was overturned, ruling Gattis safe and Gonzalez out on a 1-6-3 groundout at first base.
WHAT'S NEXT Orioles: Right-hander Dylan Bundy is set to start on Monday as the Orioles begin a 10-day, nine-game homestand, starting with a three-game series against the first-place Yankees at 1:05 p.m. ET on MLB.TV. New York left-hander Jordan Montgomery had a no-decision in a late April start against Baltimore.
Astros: Right-hander Brad Peacock was so effective in his recent spot start that he earned another. He'll take the mound Monday at 1:10 p.m. CT on MLB.TV when the club opens a three-game series at Minnesota. Twins right-hander Ervin Santana is seeking his eighth win.