Game 31: Shuck steals the show
Friday’s game against the Yankees wasn’t televised, so there’s no video evidence that will tell the story of the outstanding game outfielder J.B. Shuck had. The evidence was on Shuck’s uniform, which was covered from neck to feet in dirt.
In short, Shuck played like a guy trying to make a team. Getting the start in left field before more than 11,000 fans under the lights at Steinbrenner Field, Shuck stole the show in a 6-4 loss to the Yankees. He went 1-for-4 at the plate with a hustling double and an RBI, but he made two terrific diving catches and threw out a runner at the plate.
“Shuck had a great game,” Astros pitcher Nelson Figueroa said. “Shuck was outstanding. It could have been a lot worse day if it wasn’t for Shuck. He made some great plays.”
Shuck made a diving catch in the left-center gap in the second to rob Eduardo Nunez of a hit, coming out of nowhere to corral the ball. The crowd gave him a standing ovation. In the fourth, he charged towards the infield and went horizontal to catch Brett Gardner’s blooper for an out. In the sixth, he fielded a fly ball and threw a rope to the plate to complete a double play.
“I got a bead on it in the gap and I though I had a chance and just dove for it and was able to get to it,” Shuck said. “The other just happened to stay up long enough and I was able to slide in there and avoid running into [shortstop Angel] Sanchez. You don’t think about it and you just go after it.”
Shuck, 23, is a non-roster invitee who’s battling with Jason Bourgeois for the final bench spot. He definitely helped himself Friday.
Here’s the recap:
What went right: Outside of Shuck’s great game, there were a few other encouraging signs. Chris Johnson went 1-for-3 with a triple and a run scored, and Matt Downs came off the bench and went 1-for-1 with a double and is now hitting .286 in Grapefruit League action.
Michael Bourn, Jason Michaels, Hunter Pence and Oswaldo Navarro also had one hit each for the Astros. On the mound, Jose Valdez pitched a scoreless inning.
What went wrong: I always hesitate to say any starting pitcher’s outing went “wrong” in Spring Training, but Nelson Figueroa would certainly have liked to have a better a line than nine hits, five runs, four walks and two homers allowed in six innings. Figueroa did throw 106 pitches, so he got in his day’s work, and he pitched out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the first.
“It was fun to get the work in and get to 100 pitches,” he said. “I felt like I was still strong, but at the same time I’ve had a sinus infection the last two days and it kind of felt like I was in a fish bowl starting out. I felt a little weak in the first inning and it started to unravel quick and I was a little worried about that a short day and a long inning.
“I got out of that first inning and felt good and made some good pitches. I found Eric Chavez’s bat a few times. I’m just really working on command and locating my pitches and get comfortable with [catcher Carlos] Corporan. All in all, it could have been a better day result-wise. We were still in the ballgame when I left. It was fun to be out there and get the work in.”
Ross Wolf pitched the seventh and gave up two hits and one run, striking out one batter. At the plate, the Astros struck out nine times, including Pence twice. Angel Sanchez and Brett Wallace were 0-for-3, and center fielder Michael Bourn made a throwing error.
What they said: “I think I’m going to put mayonnaise and mustard on his sandwich before he comes in. He did a great job today. It was great to see him and have some fun and continue to see the young kids working hard and being productive.” — Astros pitcher Nelson Figueroa on the great defensive play Friday by left fielder J.B. Shuck.
What’s next: The Astros’ bullpen will be on display when they return to Osceola County Stadium to face the Washington Nationals at 12:05 p.m. CT. Opening Day starter Brett Myers was originally scheduled to start, but he will pitch in a Minor League game because he’s already faced Washington twice this spring. The Astros will piece things together with their bullpen, with Henry Villar getting the start. Also pitching are Brandon Lyon, Wilton Lopez, Enerio Del Rosario, Mark Melancon, Aneury Rodriguez and Fernando Abad.
Injury report: Shortstop Clint Barmes left the game after being hit in the left hand by a pitch. He had a nasty bruise and some swelling and will undergo X-rays on Saturday morning. Read more about it here.
Sorry, no pictures again today. I spent the pregame in the press box writing the story that updates the status of the team’s impending sale. Details can be found here.