Day 17: Catchers look good; pitchers not so much

Astros pitchers took their lumps once again Monday, giving up 14 hits and five walks in a 4-1 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays at Osceola County Stadium. Bud Norris looked good in his debut and J.R. Towles had three of the team’s seven hits, but a couple of relievers struggled to throw strikes.

Here’s the breakdown:

The good: Norris, making his first start of the spring, gave up two hits, one run, two walks and struck out two batters in two innings. He allowed a homer to Toronto catcher J.P. Arenciba, but didn’t allow any batters to reach second outside of that. The only reliever to throw a 1-2-3 inning was Wilton Lopez, but Jeff Fulchino, Casey Daigle, Yorman Barzardo and Chia-Jen Lo had scoreless frames.

Rookie catcher Jason Castro went 1-for-3 and also threw out Joey Gathright trying to steal second base in the first inning. Towles was 3-for-4 with two doubles and an RBI and accounted for three of Houston’s seven hits. Tommy Manzella, Michael Bourn and Cory Sullvan also had hits.

The bad: Left-hander Tim Byrdak was roughed up in relief, giving up three hits and two runs in one inning. Byrdak went to the bullpen after his outing to work on his mechanics. Gustavo Chacin gave up three hits and one run in one inning, and Yorman Bazardo gave up three hits before pitching his way out of a bases-loaded jam to keep his ERA at 13.50.

Houston was 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and managed only two extra-base hits on Towles’ doubles. The Astros committed an error when Chacin and Lance Berkman got mixed up about who should cover first base, and Berkman wound up flipping a ball that hit Chacin in the back, allowing a runner to advance.

What they said: “They scored four runs on [14] hits, so they worked out of some pretty good jams, so they had to make some adjustments along the way. Bud was trying to go down and away with that 1-2 fastball and he left it up over the middle, and the guy smoked it. That was his one run. Byrdak gave up those two runs and got a little off center. They hit a couple of balls on Gustavo. On the other side of the ball, you’d like to be able to string some thing together and Towles ends up with three of our seven hits. Their two left-handers, [J.C.] Romero and [Dana] Eveland, kind of shut us down a little bit.” – manager Brad Mills.

What’s next: Brett Myers makes his second start of the spring when the Astros travel to Port St. Lucie to meet the New York Mets at 12:05 p.m. Central. The Astros will be playing without the meat of their batting order as Hunter Pence, Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee will stay in Kissimmee, Fla., to get their work in. Former Astros farmhand Johan Santana will start for the Mets.

Matt Lindstrom, Alberto Arias, Chris Sampson, Sammy Gervacio, Shane Loux and Wesley Wright are also scheduled to pitch for the Astros. Also, Polin Trinidad, Evan Englebrook and Jose Valdez will throw in a Minor League game on Tuesday in Kissimmee.

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