Pence’s back keeps him out of lineup

Astros right fielder Hunter Pence, who’s riding a 22-game hitting streak, was out of the lineup for Sunday’s game against the Braves and wasn’t expected to play. Pence has been dealing with lower back spasms.

Jason Bourgeois was originally going to get the start in right field, but he was scratched about an hour before the game with an ankle sprain. Jason Michaels started in his place.

Astros manager Brad Mills said Pence and head athletic trainer Nate Lucero came into his office following Saturday’s game and expressed concern over Pence’s back condition.

“Hunter doesn’t want to ask for a day off,” Mills said. “God bless him. That’s the way you want everybody to be. But throughout the conversation, he said it hurt him when he ran and felt like it was going to lock up on him.

“If it locks up on him when he tries to do something, it could really hurt something. With a day game following a night game, the chances of that happening go up. At the end of everything, we felt today would be a good day to take off.”

The Astros are in a stretch of 16 consecutive games without a day off, and Pence has started every game in right field.

“It only makes sense for him to take today off,” Mills said.

Pence, who’s hitting .391 during the streak, told reporters Sunday morning his back feels fine.

“They told me last night they wanted, with a day game after a night game, they wanted to give me a day rest and come back ready to go,” he said. “I felt good after the game, and that’s that.”

Mills said his goal is to try to not use Pence as a pinch-hitter, and not just because he has a 22-game hitting streak on the line.

“He needs today off,” Mills said. “If some unforeseen thing happens with someone getting hurt and he has to play and we got 15 innings and we have no one else, that’s something we have to weigh at that time.”

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