Astros earn split, lose Castro for a few days

The Astros earned their first win of the Grapefruit League season on Wednesday, beating the Detroit Tigers 6-3 in Lakeland, Fla. Meanwhile, the split-squad Astros dropped a 6-5 decision to the New York Yankees in Tampa, giving up five runs in the ninth.

More on the Yankees game below, but here’s the breakdown on the Astros-Tigers game:

What went right: The Astros got some sharp pitching performances, led by J.A. Happ throwing two scoreless innings in his spring debut. Happ looked effortless as always and stayed ahead in the count, which enabled him to use all his pitches.

Ross Wolf followed Happ with two scoreless innings, allowing one hit, and drew the praise of manager Brad Mills. Wilton Lopez did his usual thing, throwing a scoreless fifth, and David Carpenter – the right-hander acquired in the Pedro Feliz trade with the Cardinals – tossed two perfect innings.

“How about Wolf mixing the pitches in and out and throwing only 17 pitches, and Lopez and Carpenter threw the ball real well,” Mills said. “To see those kids come in and contribute this early in camp is outstanding.”

At the plate, T.J. Steele went 2-for-4 with a double and two runs scored and made a pair of nice defensive plays in center field. Hunter Pence went 2-for-3, and Tommy Manzella was 2-for-3 and made a terrific barehanded defensive play behind second base and threw out Victor Martinez.

Oswaldo Navarro hit a three-run home run in the eighth inning in his only at-bat to break the game open.

After getting just one extra-base hit in their first two games, the Astros had four of them against the Tigers – Navarro’s homer, Steele’s double, a triple by Pence and a double by Manzella.

What went wrong: The biggest negative development was the injury to Jason Castro, who sprained his right knee trying to beat out a ground ball in the seventh inning. He was removed from the game and will undergo an MRI on Thursday. He’s listed as day-to-day.

Sergio Escalona allowed two hits and one earned run in one inning, and Jorge De Leon gave up one hit, one walk and two earned runs in one inning.

What they said: “Steele in center, how good was that? He made two absolutely outstanding catches. We got some extra-base hits today, besides the home run. We had a triple and a couple of doubles and it was nice to throw those in there. We were able to execute. [Brian] Dopirak had trouble getting some guys in from third, but at the same time the wind didn’t help him out, either. Those little things, Steele bunting a guy over and Austin Wates bunting a guy over, that keeps an inning going. That was huge.” - manager Brad Mills.

What’s next: Nelson Figueroa, one of five candidates for the fifth spot in the starting rotation, makes his first start of the spring when the Astros play host to the Florida Marlins on Thursday afternoon at Osceola County Stadium. He’s expected to pitch two innings. Henry Villar, Enerio Del Rosario, Fernando Rodriguez, Aneury Rodriguez, Lance Pendleton and Wesley Wright are also scheduled to throw.

Injury update: Catcher Jason Castro sprained his right knee in the seventh inning and will undergo an MRI on Thursday. … Right-hander Alberto Arias, who’s had a setback in his comeback from last year’s surgery, was scheduled to undergo an MRI on Wednesday.

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The Astros lost a tough game, 6-5, to the Yankees in Tampa, but pthey layed eight solid innings before imploding in the ninth. The Astros had 12 hits in the game – two by Jason Michaels, J.B. Shuck and Bill Hall. Bud Norris started and gave up one run in two innings, and Casey Fien, Arcenio Leon, Jose Valdez and Cesar Carrilloo each threw a scoreless inning in relief. Jordan Lyles pitched two innings and gave up one hit and two walks, but no runs.

Douglas Arguello gave up the five runs, but only two were earned because of errors by Jiovanni Mier and Mike Kvasnicka, who was pulled over from Minor League camp. Lance Pendleton threw four consecutive balls to walk in the winning run, but was put in an impossible position.

Astros general manager Ed Wade said he saw plenty to be happy about. He liked the situational hitting and was pleased to see Michael Bourn get a bunt base hit and Shuck register two bunt hits.

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Astros left fielder Carlos Lee will make his annual voyage to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo on Wednesday and will miss workouts on Thursday and Friday. Lee is a cattle rancher and shows livestock each year at the rodeo.

And finally, a few photos taken prior to Wednesday’s game in Lakeland:

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Above: Astros players await batting practice Wednesday in Lakeland.

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Above: Non-roster first baseman Brian Dopirak warms up. He has 156 career homers in the Minor Leagues — including 39 in Class A in 2004 — and is trying to reach Majors for first time.

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Above: Drew Locke takes a swing in the cage during batting practice.

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Above: Jeff Bagwell and Hunter Pence watching batting practice (Bagwell is standing on a platform). 

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