Missing a start the last time it was his turn didn't do anything to help Brad Peacock keep his spot in the starting rotation. A test against one of the most potent offenses in the American League on Thursday won't make that task any easier.
The Astros starting pitcher missed his last start with forearm tightness and will return to the mound Thursday against the Orioles with his spot in the rotation likely on the line. Peacock has posted a 5.20 ERA with 44 strikeouts in 45 innings this season.
Peacock threw a bullpen session on Monday and said he feels ready to go against the team with the fourth best batting average in the Majors.
"They're a good team," Peacock said. "I'm just going to try to attack them and try to throw my offspeed for strikes and keep the ball down against them. They're a good team."
Peacock's Thursday opponent hasn't been much better this season, but he has the reputation to keep onlookers optimistic. Starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez has a 4.98 ERA and six losses. There have been signs of brilliance, though -- like his 7 1/3 innings of three-hit ball he tossed against the Twins on May 2 -- and that's enough to keep Buck Showalter optimistic.
"Stuff-wise," the Baltimore manager said after Jimenez's last start, "he's in pretty good shape."
Astros: Houston stays hot
The Astros have sat right at or near the bottom of the American League standings nearly all season long, but with a 10th win in 15 games Wednesday, Houston is threatening to climb out of the cellar.
The Astros pounded the Royals, 9-3, to cap a 6-4 road trip and claim their fifth straight victory.
During its five-game winning streak, Houston has outscored its opponents 34-10.
"We've been playing really good baseball," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "It's not easy to go on a road trip and go to three cities and come out 6-4."
Orioles: Baltimore eyeing mid-June for Santana
Starting pitcher Johan Santana has the choice to opt out of his contract with the O's on June 1, but if he doesn't, he will make one more start in extended spring training before making some Minor League appearances.
Santana is slated to throw about 80 pitches on June 2 before heading to Triple-A Norfolk for an outing on June 8 and Double-A Bowie on June 13. By then, the hope is Santana would be up to six innings and be considered a Major League option, Showalter said.
• A day after homering and then leaving a loss to the Brewers in the ninth inning with right calf tightness, Nelson Cruz blasted another two home runs, bringing his Major League-leading total up to 19. The Orioles outfielder is a career .312 hitter against the Astros with 13 home runs.
David Wilson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.