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Astros Go For Four-Game Sweep Against Slumping Orioles

(AP) -- Not many clubs have been able to break through against Dallas Keuchel this season.

The Baltimore Orioles are one.

Looking to avenge his only defeat, Keuchel takes the mound as the AL-best Astros go for a four-game sweep of the visiting Orioles on Thursday.

Keuchel (7-1, 1.76 ERA) posted a 0.80 ERA over his first six starts before allowing four runs in three of his next four outings. He tossed his second career shutout Saturday, allowing four hits and striking out a career-high 11 in a 3-0 win over the Chicago White Sox.

The left-hander, who won his second straight AL pitcher of the month award after ending May with back-to-back complete games, also threw nine scoreless innings against Oakland on April 24 before the Astros won 5-4 in 11.

"There's still four months left," Keuchel, who has the majors' second-best ERA, told MLB's official website when asked about being considered a front-runner for the Cy Young Award. "The heavy lifting is in August and September. That thought doesn't even cross my mind."

Keuchel allowed two of his three homers this season and suffered his only loss against the Orioles on May 25, giving up four runs and completing all eight innings of a 4-3 defeat. Caleb Joseph hit a two-run homer in the second inning and Steve Pearce connected on a two-run shot in the seventh as Keuchel dropped to 1-3 with a 3.60 ERA in three career starts against Baltimore.

Wei-Yin Chen opposed Keuchel last week and allowed three runs in five innings. He pitched well again Saturday but didn't receive any run support for the third time in four starts.

Chen (1-4, 3.21) tossed seven innings for the fourth time in five outings, giving up each run in a 3-0 loss to Tampa Bay.

"To win a game, it's not only about the starting pitcher. It's about the team," Chen said. "I was just trying to do my job, to prevent the opponent from scoring runs, but unfortunately (Saturday), I allowed a couple of runs very quick, so I think that kind of put some pressure on my teammates."

The left-hander is 3-0 with a 3.28 ERA in four career starts against the Astros, but Jose Altuve (6 for 13) and George Springer (5 for 9, homer) have had some success.

Springer's sixth-inning homer Wednesday followed two solo shots from Chris Carter as Houston (34-20) dealt the Orioles (23-29) a fifth straight defeat with a 3-1 victory.

Carter is hitting .389 during an 11-game hitting streak after batting .157 before that stretch. He's hitting .205 overall after batting .223 and .227 in his first two seasons with the Astros.

"I'd like to be higher than that, but it's a start," said Carter, whose average went above .200 for the first time this season. "I'm trying to work my way up, a few points here every day and just work my way up."

Adam Jones had two of the four hits for Baltimore, which is being outscored 26-12 during its skid. J.J. Hardy has missed the last three with soreness on his left side, but manager Buck Showalter said he could be in the lineup for this contest.

"It's very easy to start beating up on people," Showalter said. "I'm certainly not going to. We do a lot of things behind the scenes. We grind it. This is a challenging time. This too shall pass but you wanted it to happen yesterday."

The Astros, who lost two of three in Baltimore last week, haven't swept the Orioles in a series of any length since the first-ever meetings between the clubs June 3-5, 2003.

(Copyright 2015 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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