Day 16: Tough day for non-roster pitchers

The Astros lost to the Atlanta Braves 9-4 on Sunday at Champion Stadium to fall to 2-2 this spring. Most of their regular starters played, with Michael Bourn and Geoff Blum among those that didn’t make the trip.

Here’s the breakdown:

The good: Lance Berkman appears to be fully recovered from his bruised knee. He went 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles, an RBI and a strikeout and looked very Puma-like going into second base. After his second at-bat, manager Brad Mills asked him how he felt and he told the skipper he wanted another at-bat. Carlos Lee also had a double, and Hunter Pence (1-for-2), Pedro Feliz (1-for-2) and J.R. Towles (1-for-3) continue to swing hot bats.

Even Kaz Matsui, who has one hit in 10 at-bats this spring, smoked a ball hard in his first at-bat, but it was caught for an out. Jason Michaels also hit a couple of balls hard that resulted in a pair of rare outs for him. On the mound, Henry Villar continues to impress. He threw a scoreless inning, as did Evan Englebrook.

The Astros also had nice execution on a failed squeeze bunt in the second inning by Braves pitcher Tommy Hanson with third baseman Pedro Feliz making the tag of the runner between third base and home plate.

The bad: There were some ugly pitching lines, with non-roster relievers Gary Majewski and Roy Corcoran each giving up three runs. Majewski got the loss after allowing three hits, one walk and two earned runs in two-thirds of an inning, and Corcoran followed him and allowed four hits and three earned runs in one inning.

Josh Banks, also a non-roster invitee, was roughed up for five hits and two runs in two innings. Starter Brian Moehler pitched in out and of trouble in his first start and wound up allowing four hits, two walks but only one run in his two innings.

Houston did commit one error, but it probably should have been a hit. Shortstop Tommy Manzella was swallowed up by a grounder that took a bad hop. Mills said after the game the ball nearly took Manzella’s face off. He was right. Mills also said there was one relay and cut-off situation he would have liked to have seen performed better.

What they said: “It was nice to see Lance swing the bat real well, and I thought Carlos swung the bat real well. Kaz hit that line drive to lead off the game, so there were some well-hit balls. There at the end of the game, too, [Chris] Shelton up the middle. J-Mike hit a couple of balls hard. Any time you can put those at-bats together and hitting the balls on the button [that’s good]. They hit some balls on the buttons, too, but they found the holes and found the alleys.” - Astros manager Brad Mills.

What’s next: The Astros return home to face the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday at Osceola County Stadium. Bud Norris will make his first start of the spring as the Astros finally get through their starting rotation one time. Mills said Sunday second baseman Kaz Matsui would be given the day off, with Jeff Keppinger starting at second.

Among the other pitchers scheduled to throw Monday are Tim Byrdak, Jeff Fulchino, Shane Loux, Chia-Jen Lo, Gustavo Chacin and Polin Trinidad.

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