Day 17: Astros play best game of spring to beat Mets

The Astros played their most complete game of the spring Tuesday in beating the New York Mets 8-4 in Port St. Lucie. They had 13 hits, didn’t commit an error, turned three double plays and stole three bases. And they did it without Carlos Lee, Lance Berkman and Hunter Pence, who didn’t make the trip to Kissimmee.

Here’s the breakdown:

The good: Where to begin? Let’s start with the defense, which was superb. The Astros turned three double plays, including a nice 1-6-3 double play started by pitcher Brett Myers in the third. Pedro Feliz made a sparkling diving stop and threw out Jeff Francouer in the second, and Jason Michaels made a pair of terrific catches in left field in the fifth.

On the first catch, he made a run to his right and tumbled after caching Francouer’s fly ball. Two batters later, he made a long run into the Mets bullpen and made a sliding catch at the wall, all the while avoiding the extra pitchers and while garden chairs that were in his way.

“I’m going over there and out of the corner of my eye see these guys moving these chairs and I say, ‘This ought to be good.’ So I said ‘Let me just slide here,'” Michaels said. “I’m not going to go into the wall, but I slid and ended up surprisingly catching it.”

The Astros scored three in the first off Johan Santana, including a solo homer by Kaz Matsui, who went 2-for-2 with two runs scored and two walks. First baseman Geoff Blum was 4-for-4 with two runs and two RBIs, and Feliz was 2-for-3. Catcher Jason Castro came off the bench and was 2-for-2 with a well-struck double over the head of the center fielder.

Myers, making his second start in Grapefruit League play, gave up two runs and four hits in three innings, and reliever Matt Lindstrom breezed through two innings and struck out one batter. Shane Loux and Sammy Gervacio also had scoreless innings.

Myers gave up a two-run homer to David Wright in the first, but he was happy with the way he was able to keep the ball down. He gave up singles in the second and third but got inning-ending double plays both times.

“The first inning I struggled a little bit making an adjustment to the mound and things me and Arnie worked on in the bullpen,” Myers said. “You go from different mound to different mound, and it just took me a little bit longer to make an adjustment. I was able to make the adjustment and it was great. I made some good pitches. The one David Wright hit was down and he put a good swing on it.”

Michael Bourn stole second and third in the second, and Chris Shelton stole second in the third.

The bad: Not much really on the field, but there is a new injury concern. Reliever Alberto Arias was pulled after facing two batters and giving up a homer and a walk. Arias was diagnosed with a mild strain of his upper back and will be examined perhaps as early as Wednesday.

“It felt it before today, but I felt it more on my first pitch of the game,” Arias said.

Mills didn’t want to take any chances.

“He’s had it kind of bothering him,” he said. “They said it was feeling pretty well. He said he could have pitched out there, but what was coming out we didn’t think it would be safe. The doctor’s going to take a look at him and we’ll go from there.”

What they said: “It was a very well-played game. We made some pitches when we had to and the guys swing the bats, we ran the bases and we made some big plays on the double plays. It’s fun to see a game played like that and the guys are rewarded for their efforts. The hitting is going to come. We can look at that as we’ve got a good ballclub and these guys can swing the bat, but it was things like the base running that was good today, the defensive plays were outstanding, the extra effort. They did a super job.” – manager Brad Mills.

What’s next: The Astros return to Kissimmee, Fla., to face the Florida Marlins on Wednesday at 12:05 p.m. Central. Wandy Rodriguez will make his second start of the spring, and will be followed by Felipe Paulino. Both are expected to pitch three innings. Henry Villar, Fernando Abad, Roy Corcoran, Gary Majewski and Casey Daigle are also scheduled to pitch.

Astro-notes: General manager Ed Wade said right-hander Brandon Lyon, who hasn’t faced a hitter this spring after getting a cyst on his shoulder drained, will throw his third bullpen session in five days on Wednesday. If all goes well, he could pitch live batting practice on Friday. … Polin Trinidad, Evan Englebrook and Jose Valdez each threw a scoreless inning in a Minor League mini camp game on Tuesday against Detroit in Kissimmee. … Minor League first baseman Koby Clemens made the trip to Port St. Lucie with the Major League club to Spring Training and went 0-for-1 as a late-inning replacement. His father, Roger Clemens, was spotted in the stands along the right-field line.

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