Game 29: Pence, Quintero lead 16-hit attack

With the wind blowing out at McKechnie Field in Bradenton, Fla., Wednesday’s game between the Astros and Pirates figured to be high scoring. It didn’t disappoint, either, with the Astros awaking from their offensive slumber to outslug the Pirates, winning 10-6.

Before we get to the recap, click here to read about which players are out of options for the Astros and how that might affect roster decisions. Click here to read about which two catchers appear to be the most likely to be on the Opening Day roster.

There were plenty of good things to happen for the Astros, so let’s get to the recap:

What went right: After behind held to six hits in their previous two games, the Astros bashed 16 hits against the Pirates. Hunter Pence led the way by going 3-for-3 with his first spring homer, raising his average to .385.

Pence doubled in the first and hit a long homer to left field in the third.

“Whenever the season starts, it would feel better if you do that,” Pence said.

Brian Bogusevic, battling for an outfield spot, came off the bench and went 2-for-2 with two runs scored, and Jason Michaels was 2-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI to raise his spring average to .413. Then there was Humberto Quintero, who not only picked off a pair of runners but was 3-for-3. He’s now hitting .452.

Brett Wallace drove in three runs, pushing his spring total to a team-leading 17 RBIs. He had sacrifice flies in the first and fifth innings and an RBI single in the ninth. Angel Sanchez went 1-for-3 in his return from a back injury and reported no problems, and Brian Esposito and Matt Downs each had a hit in their only at-bats.

The Astros also did a nice job in situations, going 4-for-5 in getting runners home from third base with less than two outs and 3-for-3 in moving runners over from second base. Starting pitcher J.A. Happ even but down a pair of sacrifice bunts.

Happ threw 100 pitches in six innings of work. The results weren’t great – nine hits, five earned runs and two walks allowed – but the pitching conditions weren’t the best. All in all, it was a good sign to see him throw so many pitches.

Enerio Del Rosario threw another scoreless inning, running his spring scoreless streak to 11 1/3 innings. Gustavo Chacin worked a scoreless ninth, and Wesley Wright didn’t allow a run in two-thirds of an inning, though he gave up one hit and one walk.

What went wrong: Not much, outside of the runs allowed by Happ. Chris Johnson had a tough day, going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and a fielding error. Still, he’s hitting .283 this spring. Jose Valdez gave up two hits and one run in one-third of an inning.

What they said: “I think I made adjustments after the first two innings. I was disappointed after that second inning. I kind of had a bad series of executions in a couple of hitters, situational-type things with the pitcher at the plate, guys on second and third. After that I think I kept ball down better than I did in the first two innings in the last four and tried to build off that.” – Astros starter J.A. Happ on his outing Wednesday.

What’s next: Right-hander Bud Norris, coming off his best start of the spring, makes his final Grapefruit League start of the spring when the Astros return to Osceola County Stadium to meet the Tampa Bay Rays at 12:05 p.m. CT on Thursday. Norris, who’s the No. 4 starter in the Astros’ rotation, threw five scoreless innings against the Cardinals on Saturday. Brandon Lyon, Mark Melancon, Fernando Abad and Ross Wolf are also scheduled to pitch for the Astros.

Injury update: Right fielder Hunter Pence needed four stitches to close a gash on his right shin Wednesday, an injury that occurred while he was sliding into home plate in the fifth inning. He said he would be fine to play Thursday. … Infielder Angel Sanchez (back) returned to the lineup and went 1-for-3 and said his back feels great.

And, no, I don’t have any photos for the second day in a row. I left my camera in the press box when I went to the field, but rest assured I’m coming back strong tomorrow in Kissimmee. See you then.

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