Houston will take the field on Friday not as the Astros but as the Eagles -- the only Negro Leagues team to play in Texas. The contest against the Orioles will be the culmination of weeks of buildup to this year's Civil Rights Game.
The event will begin with the MLB Beacon Awards Luncheon at noon CT, during which the late poet Dr. Maya Angelou, Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Berry Gordy and Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Brown will receive awards. They will later be honored at Minute Maid Park prior to the game, which will get underway after boxing legend and Houston native George Foreman throws the ceremonial first pitch.
"It's an honor to be able to pitch in tomorrow's game," said Miguel Gonzalez, who will start for Baltimore. "It's something big for everyone, and it's going to be exciting to be a part of."
Those in attendance will also get to see Houston playing its best baseball of the season. The Astros have recorded six straight wins.
"I think the team is definitely maturing," Houston manager Bo Porter said. "We are winning break points that earlier in the year we were losing. Our position players have really locked in to using the whole field, and it's really helped us in those situations with men in scoring position."
During their last seven games, rookie outfielder George Springer has blasted seven home runs. Springer's 10 home runs in May extended his Astros rookie record and tied him for the third-most long balls by a rookie in May with Jose Canseco, Wally Joyner and Walt Dropo. Mark McGwire set the rookie record for home runs in May with 15 in 1987.
Houston is 7-2 in games when its exciting rookie goes deep.
Taking the mound for the Astros will be Brett Oberholtzer, making his second start since being called up from Triple-A Oklahoma City on Saturday. Last Saturday, against the Mariners, he allowed just two earned runs in six innings.
The O's, meanwhile, have struggled. The Orioles have dropped 12 of their last 18 and slipped to .500 after leading the division earlier in May.
Orioles: Wieters makes progress
On Friday, catcher Matt Wieters will take one of the first steps in his return from an elbow injury with a simple game of catch, throwing for the first time in more than three weeks after noted orthopedic surgeon James Andrews recommended he not do anything to aggravate the elbow.
Wieters last played on May 10 and hasn't caught since May 4.
"It's gotten a lot better over the last few days, which is what we were waiting on -- waiting for it all to subside, and it's all gotten out," Wieters said. "Now it's just a matter of going through the throwing progression, and hopefully, everything keeps getting better."
Astros: Fowler tries to stay on track
Dexter Fowler's mini hot streak was briefly halted during Houston's series-opening win over Baltimore on Thursday with an 0-for-3 performance, but he has been one of the Astros' best hitters during their recent successful stretch.
Houston extended its winning streak to six games on Thursday, a span that includes a three-game sweep of the Royals. Fowler went 4-for-11 with three walks and three RBIs during the series in Kansas City.
His batting average is up to .259 despite missing four games due to illness earlier in the season.
"Before he had the setback, this guy was off to a tremendous start," Porter said. "I really think that the four days being hospitalized, and taking that time, it just took him a minute to get back right in the batter's box."
• Outfielder Nelson Cruz didn't homer on Thursday, but he did drive in Baltimore's only run in the 3-1 loss. His 49 RBIs tie him with Miami's Giancarlo Stanton for the Major League lead.
David Wilson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.