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HOU@BAL: Castro cashes in on two walks with home run

BALTIMORE -- Jarred Cosart kept the Astros' good run of starting pitching going Sunday afternoon, but his teammates were able to deliver on some other things that have been eluding them -- strong relief pitching and a clutch hit late in the game.

Relievers Tony Sipp and Chad Qualls combined to throw three scoreless innings in support of Cosart, and Jason Castro and Marc Krauss accounted for all the offense with homers to send the Astros past the Orioles, 5-2, at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Cosart (2-3) won for the first time since his first start of the season April 2 by holding the red-hot Orioles to two runs and eight hits in six innings. Since allowing seven runs and three hits in a third of an inning April 18 in Seattle, Cosart is 1-1 with a 2.10 ERA in four starts.

"It's big, mainly for the team," Cosart said. "I felt like we've been playing pretty good the past two series. A lot of stuff isn't going our way. Even today, they got a couple of bloop hits and a couple of hard-hit balls when I miss spots, but that's what's going to happen. Today was a complete team effort."

Cosart was pitching in front of his mother, Cindy, who was in Baltimore for Mother's Day, along with Cosart's younger brother, Jake. After the game, Jarred gave her the white and pink cleats he wore during the game.

"I owed her one," he said. "She came out when I was in Low A when I was 19 and I didn't do very well. It was good to rebound and have a good start and get a team win. They'll have a happy flight home, I guess."

Orioles manager Buck Showalter said the Orioles had a hard time picking up the ball from Cosart.

"We knew that was going to be a challenge going in," he said. "But he pitched with his fastball, which is really two of them. He four-seamed the ball in and ran it in there and then he'd cut the ball, real late life. You don't recognize it."

The Astros' bullpen, which blew its eighth save of the season Saturday, was excellent. Sipp, a lefty making his third appearance with the club, sent down all six batters he faced, including five by strikeout. Chad Qualls worked a scoreless ninth for his second save.

"I didn't feel great," Sipp said. "It was one of those games, you go out there and you've got to focus more. I think it was more me focusing because I didn't have the velocity I usually have. Just know you have to hit spots when you don't have your best stuff."

Sipp certainly isn't going to overpower anyone with his 91-mph fastball, but he had Orioles hitters completely off balance and swinging at everything.

"Sipp was outstanding," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "You look at the groove he got into, it was one of those things we were taking it batter by batter and he just did an outstanding job of mixing and matching and front-dooring his slider and doing a tremendous job of pitching to the inner-third of the plate and changing speeds. He made some big 3-2 pitches with confidence in his offspeed stuff. It was outstanding."

The Astros began the game with Jose Altuve and Dexter Fowler drawing walks off Orioles starter Chris Tillman (3-2). Castro jumped all over the next pitch, sending it soaring over the wall to straightaway center field to give the Astros a 3-0 lead.

"Typically, after a guy is kind of trying to feel for some stuff like that, I still wanted to be aggressive," Castro said. "I was hoping he would throw a get-me-over [pitch], trying to get himself back into rhythm, and I got one. I put a pretty good swing on it and I was happy with the result, obviously. Altuve and Dexter did a good job working those counts and getting on base right off the bat."

Cosart got in trouble in the third inning by allowing four consecutive singles after one out, capped by a two-run, bases-loaded single by Adam Jones that got the Orioles within a run, 3-2. Baltimore had runners at second and third with one out in the fifth, but Cosart struck out Jones and got Nelson Cruz to fly out to escape.

"After the first time or two around, I felt like a lot of their hitters were sitting offspeed, like the hit that Jones got," Cosart said. "I've been showing it a lot in the last couple of starts. Aside from the third inning where the command got a little sporadic, [the fastball] definitely was what helped me get through the sixth inning and the pitch count was up a little higher than I wanted it to be, but we leave here with a win."

Krauss gave the Astros a lift in the seventh inning with a two-run homer to right field off reliever T.J. McFarland, pushing the lead to 5-2.

"Those are the runs we've not been able to get -- those tack-on runs that give you an extra cushion," Porter said.

The three-run lead changed Sipp's approach.

"They can't hit a three-run home run if you go right at the guys," he said. "The leadoff guy is not going to change the game. Just from the start, you can go out there and attack the strike zone because it's not a one-run game anymore. Having that changed my approach and changed the hitters' approach, also." Comments