Game 6: Bats go silent against Nationals

The Grapefruit League championship express was derailed Thursday afternoon in an 8-0 loss to the Nationals in Viera, Fla., as the Astros fell to 4-2 this spring. Here’s the boxscore.

For the news of the day, including Astros GM talking about his apology to the Rangers and the Astros announcing they’ll decide Friday whether to have the pistol on their Colt .45s retro uniforms, click here.

Here’s the breakdown:

What went right: Jason Castro played in consecutive games for the first time this spring, going 1-for-3 at designated hitter one day after catching five innings. Even when he’s not catching, the Astros are going to take advantage of the DH to try to get him as many at-bats as possible.

Infielder Jimmy Paredes made his spring debut and struck out as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning from the left side of the plate. He’s scheduled to start Friday against the Blue Jays.

In addition to Castro, the only other hits were by Fernando Martinez and Chris Snyder. The Astros also didn’t commit an error once again.

On the the mound, the Astros got scoreless innings from pitchers Henry Villar and Fernando Abad, who drew heaps of praise for manager Brad Mills for the way he was able to make adjustments. Abad was all the rage a year ago after a strong winter ball outing, but he had a terrible spring. Mills said he’s pitching like he did in 2010, which is a great sign for the lefty.

Mills also lauded Lucas Harrell, who threw 1 2/3 innings of scoreless, hitless relief. Mills said the ball was exploding out of his hand.

What went wrong: Livan Hernandez allowed three hits, two runs, including a homer, and two walks and struck out two batters in 2 1/3 innings in his second spring start. He left the game after being struck on the right leg by a grounder off the bat of Ryan Zimmerman, but the injury isn’t serious. Here’s what Hernandez had to say about it.

Right-hander Henry Sosa was roughed up, allowing seven hits and five runs in two innings.

“It’s a little puzzling because his command is usually pretty good,” Mills said. “We’re going to go back and discuss it and look at the charts and go from there and talk to him a little bit more. Usually, he’s much better of a command-type pitcher than he was today.”

The Astros were held to three hits, with J.B. Shuck, Marwin Gonzalez and Carlos Lee each going 0-for-3. When asked about the team’s offensive performance, Mills gave credit to Nationals starter Edwin Jackson, who threw four scoreless innings and struck out three batters.

What they said: “I felt good. The wind was crazy and there was the fly ball to right field [Zimmerman’s homer]. More important, I feel better than the first time. The breaking ball is better today and the changeup breaks very good. The sinker is working very good, too. I’m trying to work every day and am getting better and better. I feel good today.” — Astros pitcher Livan Hernandez on his outing.

What’s next: Jimmy Paredes, who started at third base for the Astros the final two months of the season, is scheduled to make his Grapefruit League debut when the Astros face the Toronto Blue Jays at 12:05 p.m. CT Friday in Kissimmee. Paredes has been bothered by left wrist inflammation since the winter. Left-hander J.A. Happ will start for Houston, making his second appearance of the spring. Brett Myers, Wesley Wright, David Carpenter and Aneury Rodriguez are also scheduled to pitch.

Injury update: Catcher Humberto Quintero was diagnosed with a bulging disk, which has been causing discomfort in his right hip. He had a cortisone shot in Houston on Wednesday and was back in Kissimmee playing catch Thursday. He could catch in the bullpen Saturday, but he probably won’t swing a bat until next week. … Shortstop Angel Sanchez (back) is progressing, but remains sidelined. … Infielder Jimmy Paredes (wrist) made his first Spring Training appearance Thursday and struck out swinging from the left side of the plate. He’s scheduled to make his first start Friday against Toronto and will come off the injury update. … Right-hander Livan Hernandez was hit on the right leg by a grounder Thursday and left the game, but he said it isn’t serious.

Here is the day in photos:

Livan Hernandez laughs as he jokes with former teammates across the field.

Astros pitcher Henry Sosa laughs while awaiting stretch.

Carlos Lee plays catch.

No catching gear required for Castro. He was the DH on Thursday.

Brad Mills shows off his arm by throwing BP.


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