Day 32: Great day for the Astros on the field

With 11 players from Minor League camp in uniform, the Astros blasted the Pittsburgh Pirates 11-3 on Tuesday afternoon in Bradenton, Fla. They bashed out 11 hits and got good pitching across the board, including a very strong outing by starter Felipe Paulino.

Here’s the breakdown:

The good: Nothing was more impressive Tuesday than Paulino, who held the Pirates to seven hits (six singles), one walk and one run and struck out six batters in five innings in his longest outing of the spring. He threw 73 pitches, including 50 for strikes, and seemed to put everything together.

He’s been working on all spring with pitching coach Brad Arnsberg on simplifying his mechanics.

“I’m happy because that’s what I was looking for,” Paulino said. “I’ve been trying to battle my mechanics all Spring Training and I’m getting better. All that work I’ve been doing is coming together. At the same time, I’m getting smoother and you what happened. Everything was coming fast out of my hands.”

Houston manager Brad Mills was impressed with how Paulino escaped a jam in the first by striking out Lastings Milledge.

“When he got a couple of runners on, he was able to stop it right away and he did not allow the inning to build and that’s crucial and it was nice to see him get to that stage,” Mills said.

Brandon Lyon, making his second appearance in a Grapefruit League game, threw a crisp 1-2-3 sixth inning and had one strikeout. Mills missed the first half of the spring schedule while recuperating from having a cyst drained in his right shoulder.

“At this time of year, you’re trying to get results and I definitely feel like I have some work to do in a short period of time, but I feel pretty good about it,” he said.

Gary Majewski, a non-roster invitee, threw two scoreless innings in relief and allowed no hits, two walks and struck out two batters to lower his ERA to 7.00.

Offensively, there was plenty of good news to go around. Kat Matsui went 3-for-3 with two runs scored and an RBI and is hitting .306, Jason Michaels went 2-for-3 to improve his average to .310, and Chris Shelton was 3-for-3 with two runs and four RBIs.

Even the Minor Leaguers got in the act. Drew Locke was 2-for-5 and made a terrific catch while flipping over the right-field railing to end the game, and center fielder T.J. Steele was 2-for-5 with two runs scored and an RBI.

The bad: I could nitpick and focus on Kaz Matsui and Minor Leaguer Collin DeLome getting picked off first base, but why spoil an otherwise great day?

What they said“I want opportunities to give wins to the Astros, and at the same time the Astros had confidence in me last year and they waited for me the last two years, and I have to do something better this year for them.” — Paulino.

What’s next: The Astros’ road trip continues Wednesday when they travel to Port St. Lucie to face the New York Mets at 12:10 p.m. CT on MLB.TV. Casey Daigle, a non-roster relief pitcher, will get the start for the Astros, whose rotation got jumbled because of Sunday’s rainout. Outfielders Hunter Pence and Carlos Lee, who didn’t travel with the team to Bradenton on Monday, are scheduled to make the trip to face the Mets. Jeff Fulchino, Matt Lindstrom and Tim Byrdak are also scheduled to throw for Houston.

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