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SD@BAL: Tillman dazzles over seven frames, fans seven

The Orioles are the latest club on the Astros' American League welcome tour as the teams square off Tuesday night for the first of a three-game set in Houston.

But the O's have a bigger concern than rolling out the welcome mat for Houston: They're trying to cement a place among baseball's elite clubs.

"I think we can play with anybody," said Baltimore slugger Chris Davis. "I think that's kind of the way we feel in the clubhouse. It was a good team [Detroit] that we just beat. Obviously after the loss [Saturday] you want to bounce back and get the win and win the series, but when we play our game and don't try to do too much, we can compete with anybody."

That talk has been backed up of late, as the O's have won four of their last five and 10 of 13, including series wins over the Yankees, Nationals and Tigers.

Davis has been at the forefront of the club's recent swagger, mashing four home runs and recording 11 hits in his last six games. He has 20 home runs -- that leads the Major Leagues -- after another dinger Sunday against Detroit. He trails only the Tigers' Miguel Cabrera in batting average and RBIs through two months of the season.

"I'm just going try and to continue to go out there and have good at-bats," Davis said. "It's obviously good to good off to a good start, but at the same time, you've got to keep plugging day-in and day-out and the numbers will be there at the end of the season."

He'll get a new playground in Minute Maid Park, home to one of Major League Baseball's most surprising teams since Memorial Day.

The Astros have won six in a row following a four-game sweep of the Angels.

"We've been playing really good ball," Houston second baseman Jose Altuve said. "Every single game we've been battling, those four games we won, and we're going to keep playing hard."

Astros manager Bo Porter says he's been trying to get his team back to basics, emphasizing a loose clubhouse.

"I think they're handling it the right way," Porter said. "Most people that are not in our clubhouse every day or around us every day didn't realize that we were the same way when we were playing baseball and not winning these games. These guys never lost confidence. We never lost confidence in them. It's something that we talk about: 'Don't live in the past, don't think about tomorrow, just focus on today.'"

Facing the Astros will be O's righty Chris Tillman, who has had trouble keeping the ball inside the park recently.

Tillman has surrendered eight homers in his last three outings, including four to the Nationals in his last start on Wednesday. He allowed six runs in 4 2/3 innings then, snapping a streak of six straight quality starts.

Righty Lucas Harrell, who beat the Rockies in his last start after dropping his previous four decisions, will get the start for Houston.

Astros: Altuve looking to snap out of swoon
• As the weather has heated up, Altuve has cooled down, and considerably at that.

Batting .345 not even four weeks ago, Altuve's average is down to .296 after a 1-for-4 night Monday in Anaheim.

However, that hit did extend his hitting streak to six games. Then again, his average has dropped in each of those six contests.

Those around the team say they don't pay attention to Altuve's struggles.

"I don't worry about Jose Altuve because this guy can hit," Porter said. "Altuve can go 3-for-10 and it may be 1-for-3, 1-for-3, 1-for-4 and everyone will be like, 'What's wrong with Altuve?' Because we are used to him getting two hits per game. We also know he can go 12-for-15. It's all going to even out and at the end of the year, he's going to be near the top of the American League in hits and average."

Orioles: Rookie getting comfortable in clubhouse
• Recent callup Kevin Gausman didn't win his first home start after allowing one run over six innings, but he shut down Cabrera and the Tigers long enough to allow his teammates to do some heavy lifting with four late runs in Sunday's 4-2 win.

"He's asking questions, he's watching the games, he's paying attention. He's seeing what other guys do before him," said Baltimore backup catcher Chris Snyder. "He's been here now a week and a half, two weeks, so I think it's kind of settled in, slowed down for him a little bit."

The outing was also Gausman's first with Snyder catching, which wasn't an issue because Gausman sought Snyder out for film study the day before the game.

""I was walking down the hall [Saturday] and I saw [Snyder] and Gaus paired up in the video room, talking, writing some things down, looking at some things," said Baltimore manager Buck Showalter. "He's settling in nicely out there."

Worth noting
• The Astros and Orioles have only met nine times over three series, with the O's winning six of those games. The Astros swept a series in 2003, and Baltimore rolled to six straight in the next two ('05, '08).

• The Orioles haven't played in Houston in nearly 10 years to the dates of this series. Baltimore and Houston played three games at Minute Maid Park from June 3-5, 2003. Comments