By NOAH TRISTER
AP Baseball Writer
BALTIMORE (AP) — The last two games of the regular season at Camden Yards included playoff-like tension.
In that sense, they were an ideal tune-up for the Houston Astros, and a valuable — if painful — learning experience for the young Baltimore Orioles.
Christian Vazquez hit a bases-loaded single to cap a four-run 11th inning for Houston, and the Astros went on to a 6-3 victory over the Orioles on Sunday. The Orioles’ postseason hopes took another blow, missing a chance to move up in the AL wild-card standings. They remained four games behind Seattle for the third and final spot after the Mariners blew a nine-run lead in a loss at Kansas City.
Houston ended the regular season 51-30 on the road. Only the Los Angeles Dodgers (52-26) will finish with a better mark. The Astros salvaged the last two games of this series — both times in their last at-bat — after Baltimore shut them down in the first two.
“They wouldn’t go away,” Houston manager Dusty Baker said. “They got some big two-out hits, we got some big hits. … Now it’s time to go home.”
Keegan Akin (3-3) retired only one hitter in the 11th for Baltimore, and that was Yordan Alvarez on a bases-loaded sacrifice fly that put the Astros ahead 3-2. Akin then hit a batter with a pitch to re-load the bases and walked Kyle Tucker to make it 4-2. Vazquez’s two-out, two-run single off Joey Krehbiel put Houston up by four.
Cedric Mullins singled home a run in the bottom half, but that was all the Orioles could manage.
Hector Neris (6-4) allowed the Orioles to tie the game at 2 in the 10th, but he pitched out of that jam and got the win.
Dillon Tate retired the first two batters of the 10th for Baltimore, allowing Yuli Gurriel to advance only to third as Houston’s automatic runner. But he then threw a wild pitch that allowed the run to score.
With runners on second and third and one out in the bottom half, Rougned Odor hit a tying single. Neris then struck out Kyle Stowers and retired Jorge Mateo on a grounder to send the game to the 11th.
Cristian Javier allowed one hit in six outstanding innings for Houston. He struck out eight in his third straight scoreless outing and faced the minimum. He retired the first 13 Baltimore batters before a single by Ryan Mountcastle. That was the only baserunner Javier allowed, and Mountcastle was erased immediately on a double-play grounder.
“His fastball and slider I think is very electric, and is going to help out a lot for this team in the postseason,” said Vazquez, who was catching for the AL West champion Astros.
Javier exited after a 46-minute rain delay following the sixth. Will Smith pitched the seventh, but the Orioles tied it at 1 off Ryne Stanek in the eighth. Odor hit a two-out RBI single high off the wall in right, narrowly missing a two-run homer. Baltimore left the bases loaded that inning.
“Anything can happen,” Orioles starter Austin Voth said. “We’re right there. We’ve just got to come out tomorrow and keep fighting. This team has a lot of fight.”
Voth allowed a run and four hits in five innings. He struck out six.
Houston opened the scoring in the third on a sacrifice fly by Mauricio Dubon.
It may have been overshadowed given everything else that happened, but with runners on first and second and two outs in the eighth, Houston shortstop Aledmys Diaz made a diving stop on Mateo’s roller up the middle. There was no play on Mateo, but keeping the ball from going through prevented the Orioles from taking the lead, and the inning eventually ended tied at 1.
Orioles: INF Ramon Urias (neck) did not play.
Baltimore heads to Boston for a four-game series starting Monday night, when Jordan Lyles (11-11) takes the mound for the Orioles against Connor Seabold (0-3). Baltimore is two wins from ensuring at least a .500 season.
The Astros are off Monday before hosting two games against Arizona. Lance McCullers (4-1) is expected to start Tuesday night for Houston.
Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister
More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports