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Bad inning dooms Keuchel
Houston Astros pitcher Dallas Keuchel reacts after walking in two runs during the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles, Saturday, May 31, 2014, in Houston. (AP Photo/Patric Schneider)
HOUSTON (AP) — Houston Astros starter Dallas Keuchel's stretch of dominant outings was ended by one bad inning on Saturday.
Keuchel walked home two runs in the fifth to give Baltimore the lead and the Orioles went on to a 4-1 win.
Nelson Cruz hit his major league-leading 20th home run and drove in three runs to back a solid start by Chris Tillman and help the Orioles snap a four-game skid.
The loss ended a season-best seven-game winning streak for the Astros.
Keuchel (6-3) allowed six hits and three runs with three walks in six innings to end a four-game winning streak. He was done in by his lack of control Saturday after walking just one batter in his previous four starts combined. Keuchel was coming off two stellar outings where he posted a 1.02 ERA and was named AL player of the week.
"I just didn't have a feel," he said of the fifth inning. "Give them credit for laying off a few pitches. That's a good team. I was lucky to get out of there with just three runs."
Manny Machado singled off Keuchel with one out in the fifth before a two-out single by Caleb Joseph. Nick Markakis walked to load the bases before the Orioles took the lead on a walk by Steve Pearce. A third straight walk — this one by Cruz — scored another run to push the lead to 3-1.
Keuchel took Adam Jones to a full count before striking him out to end the inning.
"I think he lost his command, but it also looked like he lost his attack," Houston manager Bo Porter said. "It was more changeups and sinkers. That's very uncharacteristic of Dallas to lose his command like that and walk three guys in a row."
Keuchel had walked just 12 entering Saturday's game.
"Up here, you can't really struggle with command," he said. "It will get you. It did to me (Saturday)."
Tillman (5-2) allowed one run and four hits over 6 2-3 innings to bounce back after allowing 14 runs combined in his last two starts. Zach Britton pitched a scoreless ninth for his fourth save.
Cruz extended the lead to 4-1 with his solo shot to left-center off Jerome Williams in the eighth. Cruz's 52 RBIs lead the majors and are the most in team history at the end of May, surpassing the 50 RBIs Chris Davis had entering last June.
Cruz, who also doubled on Saturday, has a 12-game hitting streak with six doubles, eight homers and 15 RBIs in that span.
Markakis hit a leadoff double and scored on a sacrifice fly by Cruz with one out to put Baltimore up early.
Jason Castro doubled with no outs in the second inning before Tillman plunked two of the next three batters to load the bases with one out. Robbie Grossman singled on a dribbler down the right field line to tie it at 1-1.