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Orioles-Astros Preview

May 23, 2016 - 9:10 PM With their offense in a major cold spell, another top-notch pitcher is the last thing the Houston Astros need to see.

That's a category Chris Tillman has reascended into with his current hot stretch.

As Tillman aims to win his sixth consecutive start, the Astros attempt to avoid a season-high fifth straight loss in Tuesday night's matchup with the AL East-leading Baltimore Orioles.

Though ineffective pitching may be the biggest factor in Houston's highly disappointing 17-28 record, its present skid can be attributed to a lack of production at the plate. The Astros are hitting .145 and have totaled five runs during the slide while managing six hits or less in each loss.

After being stymied by Chris Sale on Thursday to begin the streak, Houston fanned 11 times in Cole Hamels' eight innings as Texas completed a three-game sweep at Minute Maid Park with Sunday's 9-2 win.

"We've got to toughen up a little bit about those circumstances, whether it's a tough call or a line-drive out," manager A.J. Hinch told MLB's official website. "They give us 27 outs, we have to maximize them and overcome some of the negative vibe that can be created with being held scoreless or not getting enough hits."

The Astros won't get a reprieve in the opener of this three-game set, as Tillman (6-1, 2.61 ERA) has yielded six runs over his longest winning streak since a six-start run in June 2013, the year he registered a career-high 16 victories and made the AL All-Star team.

Tillman was sharp again in Wednesday's 5-2 win over Seattle, allowing two runs and four hits and striking out six over 6 1/3 innings.

The right-hander also owns excellent numbers at Minute Maid Park, where he's permitted two runs over 13 2/3 innings in winning both career starts.

Tillman faces a Houston lineup that slumped at the top in the Texas series, with Jose Altuve, George Springer and Carlos Correa finishing a combined 4 for 35.

Altuve is just 2 for 11 against Tillman and Springer 1 for 9 with three strikeouts.

The Astros can counter Tillman with a surging pitcher of their own in Doug Fister (4-3, 4.22), who's bounced back from a rough opening month to go 3-0 with a 3.08 ERA over his past four starts - all Houston wins. The offseason addition extended his unbeaten stretch by holding the White Sox to three runs over 6 1/3 innings in Wednesday's 5-3 victory.

When it comes to his time in the rotation, you feel like you're going to get five, six, seven innings of good, healthy hard work that give you a chance to win," Hinch said.

Preventing home runs has keyed Fister's success, as he's allowed one in his last four starts after permitting five in posting a 5.56 ERA through his first four.

Maintaining that form could be challenging, as Baltimore (26-16) ranks among the MLB leaders with 63 home runs and hit six in winning two of three from the Angels to begin a nine-game trip. The Orioles were held in check in Sunday's finale, though, with Jered Weaver tossing seven effective innings in Los Angeles' 10-2 win.

''He mixed his pitches pretty good,'' second baseman Jonathan Schoop said. "He got us off balance a little bit.''

Schoop went 2 for 3 with a two-run homer and is hitting .370 with 10 RBIs over his last eight games.