HOUSTON -- For a brief stretch on Sunday, the Houston Astros appeared content to take their .500 homestand and return to the road. Their defense was loose and right-hander Lance McCullers was scuffling. And then a fuse was lit.
George Springer crushed a two-run homer as part of a six-run second inning and McCullers recovered from a ragged start to work six innings as the Astros capped a sweep of the Baltimore Orioles with an 8-4 victory at Minute Maid Park.
The Astros (35-16) completed a 6-4 homestand by pounding Orioles starter Alec Ashur (1-3), hitting for the cycle in the second inning to erase a three-run deficit.
The Orioles (25-23) have dropped seven consecutive games.
Springer hit a 428-foot shot to left-center field that gave Houston a 5-3 lead. His 11th home run of the season followed a two-run double from Marwin Gonzalez and an RBI double from Yuli Gurriel that pulled the Astros even at 3.
The Astros scored the final three runs of the inning with two outs, setting the table for McCullers (6-1) to rebound and roll.
McCullers labored in his first two innings, throwing 49 pitches while surrendering three runs.
Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop ended McCullers' 22-inning scoreless streak with a two-run homer in the first inning, scoring Seth Smith. Schoop added an infield RBI single in the second that plated Welington Castillo, who reached on a throwing error by Gonzalez at third base.
"Three runs I feel like our team is pretty much going to score that every time," McCullers said. "Not an ideal start, kind of like a little longer popup, and after that you just say to yourself got to keep it here and let the guys go to work and they did."
But once he was gifted with the lead, McCullers quickly found his footing. He needed just 12 pitches to set the Orioles down in order in the third. He induced a double play off the bat of shortstop Paul Janish in the fourth and, after retiring the side in order in the fifth, stranded two baserunners in the sixth inning.
"It was huge because he had two taxing innings to start the day where he was close to 50 pitches," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "And then he had three innings in a row where he was in complete control of the inning. Even the fourth inning where he had 15 pitches he just had deep counts and deep at-bats but no trouble. And then a really easy fifth inning, which allowed him to complete his outing and get to the sixth."
McCullers allowed five hits and two walks with eight strikeouts.
"I think if we had the answer we'd have put that in action a long time ago," Orioles first baseman Chris Davis said of the skid. "Just one of those things where one thing goes wrong and it kind of snowballs from there. Just trying to stay positive, keep working and keep grinding it out."
Carlos Correa, Gonzalez and Gurriel all finished 2-for-4, with Gurriel scoring twice and driving in two runs. He delivered an RBI single off Orioles right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez in the third inning before later scoring on a wild pitch.
Like Schoop in the first inning, Orioles designated hitter Mark Trump clubbed his seventh home run of the season, doing so in the eighth. But Baltimore was undone by the Astros' explosion in the second and, given the length of their skid, need its upcoming nine-game homestand to provide the foundation for a lift.
"Got to look at tomorrow's the start of something good," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "It's the big leagues; you're always going to have good competition. Whether it's the Astros, the Yankees, Red Sox. That's what makes it so gratifying if you can pull it off."
NOTES: The Astros placed RHP Charlie Morton on the 10-day disabled list with a right lat strain. Morton experienced discomfort after his most recent bullpen session, lingering soreness that led to an examination that revealed the injury. There is no timetable for his return. RHP Jordan Jankowski was recalled from Triple-A Fresno. ... With Morton sidelined, RHP Mike Fiers will remain in the rotation and start Tuesday at Minnesota. Fiers was removed from the rotation earlier this weekend to make way for RHP Brad Peacock, who will earn a second start in the series opener with the Twins after working 4 1/3 scoreless innings in a spot start against the Detroit Tigers last Monday. ... The Orioles recalled RHP Logan Verrett from Triple-A Norfolk and optioned RHP Tyler Wilson to the Tides. Verrett was 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA in two appearances with Baltimore before being optioned to Norfolk on May 10.