Day 21 recap: Astros split a pair of games

The Astros finally got on the field Saturday after having two road games rained out and they beat the Washington Nationals 8-7 with a walk-off hit in the bottom of the ninth by Minor Leaguer Jack Shuck to improve to 4-4. It was another one of those gusty, windy days at Osceola County Stadium, where balls were carrying to right field and made playing the outfield difficult.

The Astros were a split-squad on Saturday and lost 8-5 to the St. Louis Cardinals in Jupiter, Fla.

Here’s the breakdown of the game against the Nationals:

The good: Bud Norris looked sharp, despite giving up a homer to Ryan Zimmerman on an 0-2, two-out pitch in the third. Zimmerman got the ball up in the air and it carried out of the ballpark with the help of the wind. He gave up three hits, two runs and two walks in three innings.

“I felt good,” Norris said. “That was the big part was staying healthy. It felt good to extend myself a little bit more, but the No. 1 priority was to go out there and be healthy and throw strikes, which I did. The conditions were a little tough, obviously, but being healthy was the key.”

Norris worked in his changeup against Washington’s left-handed heavy lineup.

“I’ve been working on it a lot this year and I’m happy with it,” he said.

Matt Lindstrom looked extremely sharp in throwing a 1-2-3 fourth, and Shane Loux added a scoreless inning. At the plate, Jeff Keppinger, Hunter Pence and Minor Leaguer Brandon Barnes had two hits each, and Pedro Feliz went 3-for-4 to raise his average to .556. Edwin Maysonet had a two-run double and made a pair of nice defensive plays at second. Houston had 16  hits.

The bad: Without getting into specifics, Mills said he wanted to see better execution on running the bases and defense. Granted, it was a difficult day to judge where balls were going to wind up when they were hit into the breezy outfield, but Mills wasn’t using that as an excuse.

Another injury problem cropped up Saturday when right-hander Yorman Bazardo was forced to leave the mound with what was diagnosed with tightness in his right shoulder. Bazardo, who threw only three pitches, said he felt it in the bullpen but felt fine warming up on the mound. He will take the next two days off from throwing.

“They told me it was muscle tightness and nothing serious,” Bazardo said.

Jeff Fulchino allowed three hits and two runs in one inning.

What they said: “You go through a time in Spring Training, and I was hoping we weren’t there yet until after the off day [Monday], but a lot of time things don’t flow like they should, especially with the wind blowing and the balls being kind of blown all over the place. Sometimes guys get confused on where they should go or tag up or go or whatever. That’s the confusion I’m talking about. They’re good players and so many times when the ball goes up in the air the situation they planned on in their mind changes because of the direction the wind’s blowing. It’s not an excuse, and these guys have done it well before and will do it well again.” - manager Brad Mills said.

What’s next: Right-hander Brett Myers will make his third start of the spring when the Astros face the Atlanta Braves at 12:05 p.m. CT Sunday at Osceola County Stadium. This game could give us a look at what the Astros’ lineup could look like without Lance Berkman, who will miss two to four weeks after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery Sunday.

Highlights from the game against the Cardinals in Jupiter:

  • RHP Felipe Paulino started and threw two scoreless innings, allowing two hits and one walk. He threw 23 pitches (17 strikes) and then went to the bullpen and threw an additional 24 pitches, pushing his day total to 47.
  • Chris Shelton, who could be in the mix to make the Opening Day roster if Lance Berkman begins the season on the disabled list, homered. Tommy Manzella went 2-for-3 and Minor Leaguer Drew Locke was 1-for-2 with two RBIs. Michael Bourn and Kaz Matsui were both 0-for-4.
  • LHP Wesley Wright gave up four hits and four runs (two earned) in 1 1/3 innings and suffered the loss. Chia-Jen Lo allowed three hits and three runs and two walks in one inning. Gary Majewski and Polin Trinidad threw scoreless innings.

Astro-notes: Mills said the players will be given Monday off from working out, which is an off day on their Grapefruit League schedule. … Right-hander Alberto Arias, who was diagnosed with right shoulder inflammation Friday, will now throw until Sunday, after which he will be reexamined. Arias said Saturday his shoulder felt better after treatment, and he could get a cortisone shot soon if he needs it. … Right-hander Brandon Lyon, who faced live hitters in the batting cage Thursday for the first time this spring, said Saturday he felt good. Mills said Lyon could face hitters again Sunday and even gave a hint to what is ahead: “We’re going to take it precautionary and bring him along slow. If he does throw well, it might in a couple of a days [when he gets in a game]. Let’s get through tomorrow’s hurdle first.” … Right-hander Brian Moehler, who was scheduled to start Friday’s game that was rained out in Dunedin, will start Tuesday’s split-squad game at the Yankees, Mills said. Moehler threw 61 pitches in a three-inning simulated game inside the batting cage in Kissimmee upon the team’s arrival from Dunedin on Friday. … With Opening Day nearly three weeks away and starters getting stretched out more in each start, the Astros will likely have to start sending players to Minor League camp soon. Here’s what Mills had to say about that: “We’ll wait and see. I haven’t sat down and talked to [GM] Ed [Wade] about it, but here becomes a time the guys that are going to be on the ballgame need to get regular at-bats on a consistent bases be ready. We’re not too far away from it, is what I’m saying.” … Catcher Jason Castro is back with the club and was in the starting lineup Saturday against Washington and played six innings. He missed two days of workouts earlier in the week. He said he had a fever of 102 degress each day.

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