Game 28: Strong return for Wandy
The Astros — playing without regulars Hunter Pence, Chris Johnson and Brett Wallace — were held to two hits on Tuesday in a 3-1 loss to the Nationals. But the news of the day was the solid return of left-hander Wandy Rodriguez, who pitched four strong innings in his first start in nearly two weeks.
Here’s the breakdown:
What went right: Rodriguez, who will start the Astros’ second regular-season game of the year, allowed three hits and one unearned run and no walks in four innings. He threw 70 pitches in the game, and then tossed 12 more in the bullpen to reach his pitch count instead of perhaps getting pulled in the middle of an inning.
Right-hander Henry Villar has helped his chances of the making the club with a terrific spring performance. He threw two more scoreless innings Wednesday against the Nationals, striking out two batters, to lower his ERA to 1.80.
Villar, who made the jump from Double-A to the Majors last year, has thrown two innings in his past four spring outings, pushing his Grapefruit League total to 12 innings. He’s allowed three hits, one walk and one earned run and struck out eight batters in that span.
Not much to report at the plate. The Astros had only two hits, a third-inning single by Oswaldo Navarro and an RBI single by Michael Bourn in the sixth.
Several Astros starters played nine innings Tuesday in 84-degree heat Wednesday, including center fielder Michael Bourn, shortstop Clint Barmes, second baseman Bill Hall, catcher J.R. Towles and first baseman Matt Downs. Building up endurance is important.
What went wrong: The Astros were held to two hits, going 2-for-27 at the plate against four different Washington pitchers. Clint Barmes (.208 spring average) was 0-for-4, and Bill Hall (.200), Carlos Lee (.222), J.R. Towles (.314) and Matt Downs (.256) were 0-for-3.
The Astros made one error, which led to the Nationals pushing across an unearned run in the third. Barmes made a nice two-out stop of a ground ball and bounced his throw past Downs at first base, and the runner eventually scored.
Left-hander Fernando Abad continued his Spring Training struggles , allowing four hits and two runs in one inning Tuesday. He gave up a two-run, tie-breaking homer to Mike Morse in the eighth inning to suffer the loss.
What they said: “You know what, the last inning I felt my shoulder a little bit tired because I had a long time of not throwing in a game. But everything is fine. I feel great.” — Astros pitcher Wandy Rodriguez on his first start since March 10.
What’s next: Left-hander J.A. Happ makes his second-to-last start of the spring when the Astros travel to Bradenton, Fla., on Wednesday to meet the Pirates at 12:05 p.m. CT. Happ, who will start the Astros’ third regular-season game, is coming off his best start of the spring, holding the Marlins to four hits and no earned runs in four innings Friday in Jupiter, Fla. Jose Valdez, Enerio Del Rosario, Gustavo Chacin and Wesley Wright are also scheduled to pitch
Injury update: Closer Brandon Lyon was supposed to throw one inning in a Minor League game on Tuesday, but he had to be scratched due to an illness. … Infielder Angel Sanchez, meanwhile, was able to play in a Minor League game in Kissimmee. He led off five innings and went 1-for-3 with two walks and had no problems with his ailing back. Mills said Sanchez will return to the lineup Wednesday against the Pirates in Bradenton.
Sorry, no photos today. Will break out the trusty camera again in Bradenton on Wednesday.