BALTIMORE (AP) -- Down by two runs in the seventh inning? Hardly a challenge anymore for the Baltimore Orioles.
Melvin Mora hit a two-run double in the eighth to cap yet another improbable rally by Baltimore and doom the sinking Houston Astros to their sixth straight defeat, 6-5 Tuesday night.
Marcus Thames can't be contained. Thames homered in his fifth straight game Tuesday, tying the franchise record. He might be the fifth Tiger to pull that off, but Thames is just the first since Willie Horton did so in 1969.
After coming from behind by five runs to beat Pittsburgh on Friday -- the second time this season they've rebounded from such a deficit -- the Orioles were surprising casual after their rally against Houston."We weren't down that much tonight. It's just two runs," leadoff hitter Brian Roberts said. "You get a couple guys on and you never know what can happen. That's just kind of the attitude we take."The guy has a point, given that it was the major league leading 16th time this season that Baltimore rallied from a two-run deficit to win.Nick Markakis started the comeback with a home run that got the Orioles to 5-4 in the seventh."When Nick hit the home run," manager Dave Trembley said, "that told me we were going to do it again."In the eighth, Adam Jones hit a leadoff single off Doug Brocail (2-2) and Roberts drew a one-out walk. Jose Valverde struck out Markakis before Mora hit a 3-2 pitch into the gap in right-center."You got to tip your hat to him, he had a terrific at-bat and fouled off some tough pitches," Astros manager Cecil Cooper said. "You have to give him a little credit. That's one of the best closers in the game right there and [Mora] fought him tooth and nail."Jim Johnson (2-2) worked a scoreless eighth and George Sherrill got three straight outs for his 23rd save. Sherrill complained about a tired arm after giving up a 10th-inning run in a loss to Pittsburgh on Sunday, but the left-hander rebounded smartly following a much-needed day off."I think George turned it up a notch tonight," Trembley said.Carlos Lee homered and Kazuo Matsui drove in three runs for the Astros, who have been outscored 48-22 during their six-game skid. It's been a tough run for a team that figured to be a contender in the NL Central."It's been that way for a while," said starter Brandon Backe, who allowed three runs in 5 2/3 innings. "We're wondering why we're not winning. If there was an answer to it, then it'd be pretty easy to solve. But there is no simple equation or answer to us losing ball games right now. It's one of those things where bad stuff is happening and we just can't find any luck, breaks. It's just not happening right now."Cooper said, "As long as we keep playing hard, that stuff will change. ... Tonight was an example of how we need to play. We played hard tonight."Miguel Tejada went 0-for-3 with a walk for Houston in his return to Baltimore. Tejada played four years with the Orioles before being traded to the Astros for five players in December.Although he never batted below .296, hit 102 home runs and averaged 107 RBIs with the Orioles, Tejada was greeted by a mixture of jeers and applause before each at-bat.Aubrey Huff also homered for the Orioles, who improved to 16-10 in one-run games compared to 13-31 last year.Two of the five players obtained in the trade for Tejada made contributions for Baltimore -- left fielder Luke Scott went 1-for-3 with a walk and Matt Albers allowed one run and one hit in 2 1/3 innings of relief.Houston trailed 3-1 before taking the lead with a three-run fifth inning against starter Garrett Olson. Successive two-out singles by Ty Wigginton, Humberto Quintero and Michael Bourn produced a run before Matsui hit a two-run double. Tejada then walked, ending Olson's night, before Albers got Lance Berkman to ground out.Lee led off the sixth with his 15th home run, setting the stage for Baltimore's latest comeback."If it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen," Roberts said. "There are going to be nights when you don't get them in, but there have been a lot of nights when we have. That's kind of the feeling we have, that's we're going to get them in most of the time."The Astros got a first-inning run when Bourn beat out a grounder deep in the hole at shortstop, advanced to third on two wild pitches and scored on a groundout by Matsui.Huff gave Baltimore a 2-1 lead in the third with an opposite-field drive to left after Markakis singled. Freddie Bynum, Baltimore's shortstop now that Tejada is gone, hit an RBI single in the fourth.
Lee has 41 RBIs in his last 44 games and five multihit games in his last eight. ... Markakis took over the team lead in homers with 12, breaking a tie with Scott, Huff and Kevin Millar.