Game 10: Things get ugly late for Astros

The Astros blew their second large lead in as many days Monday, watching the Washington Nationals score nine runs in the eighth inning – when all of the regular players were out of the game – and rally for a 14-9 win over the Astros at Space Coast Stadium in Viera, Fla.

The biggest news of the game came in the seventh inning when Bud Norris, who pitched in relief, had to leave with a mild right hamstring strain. Norris said after the game it was just a tweak and that he wasn’t too worried about it.

Here’s the breakdown:

What went right: The Astros had another big day at the plate, getting 15 hits one day after they had 17 hits against the Yankees. Among the starters, Michael Bourn, Clint Barmes and Brian Bogusevic were 1-for-4, and Chris Johnson was 2-for-3 with a three-run homer. Bourn homered to right field in the first at-bat of the game.

We’ll put J.A. Happ in the good category, even though he gave up three runs in the second inning.  All three runs were unearned – Johnson made a two-out error at third base in the inning – and he gave up three hits and two walks.  Norris threw two good innings before giving up a double and then leaving with a hamstring strain.

Happ looked terrific in striking out former teammate Jayson Werth with a 3-2 cutter in the first inning, but walked a pair of batters in the second, including one with the bases loaded. Happ said pitching with some traffic on the bases early in Spring Training isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

“I don’t want to get used to having to do that, but it is good,” he said. “It’s a good situational refresher how to pitch. It’s a little reminder that I rush myself when guys are on base sometimes, and I probably need to try to get ahead with the fastball a little bit more than I did today. All in all, I thought it went OK.”

Henry Villar pitched between Happ and Norris and threw two scoreless innings.

What went wrong: In addition to Johnson’s two-out error that helped the Nationals along in the second inning and the injury to Norris, relievers Patrick Urckfitz and Jorge De Leon combined to give up nine runs in the eighth. Urckfitz allowed four hits and five runs in 1 2/3 innings, and De Leon gave up five hits and four runs while getting just one out. Neither of these guys are going to make the club, but they need to take advantage of these situations.

What they said: “He was a little inconsistent and he’s going to have those, but he was able to come back to an extent. That inconsistency is something he’ll work through and there’s no reason to think he won’t.” - Astros manager Brad Mills said of J.A. Happ.

What’s next: It’s another split-squad date for the Astros, who will play the Mets at home in Kissimmee and the Red Sox in Fort Myers on Tuesday. Astros manager Brad Mills, who spent six years as the bench coach of the Red Sox, will travel to his old stomping grounds in Fort  Myers, where Rule 5 pick Aneury Rodriguez will make his first start of the spring and will be followed by fellow Rule 5 pick Lance Pendleton. Nelson Figueroa will start in Kissimmee against the Mets, his former team.

Injury update: Bud Norris left Monday’s game with a mild hamstring strain, but he’s expected to be fine. … Jason Michaels is expected to play left field on Tuesday in Boston. He hasn’t played in the outfield this season because of some arm discomfort.

And now to the pictures, which are a little on the light side today because the lighting in Viera played tricks with my fancy camera:

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Above: Hunter Pence stretches his legs before he hits on field Monday.

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Above: Brett Wallace stretches his legs on the field.

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Above: Michael Bourn does a promotional voiceover for MLB.com

1 Comment

Brian Johnson huh? Do you even look at the lineup?

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