Game 14: Early trouble dooms Norris, Astros

The Astros lost their third consecutive Spring Training game, 6-3, to the Yankees on Sunday afternoon at sunny George M. Steinbrenner Field, dropping their Grapefruit League record to 7-7 near the midpoint of the spring season. You can find the boxscore by clicking here.

Here’s the breakdown:

What went right: How about the relief pitching of Brett Myers? Those who were worried about Myers’ struggles early in the spring needed to remember he’s a veteran who’s working on arm strength as he prepares himself to be the closer. He pitched two innings Saturday for the first time this spring, allowing one hit and no runs and touching 91-92 mph on the radar gun. Astros manager Brad Mills said he would like to get Myers in consecutive games later this spring.

Myers wasn’t the only reliever to pitch well. Left-hander Xavier Cedeno pitched a 1-2-3 fourth inning, striking out Brett Gardner and Robinson Cano, and Fernando Rodriguez struck out two of the three batters he faced in the eighth. Right now, it’s hard to envision a scenario in which Rodriguez isn’t on the club when it breaks camp.

The Astros outhit the Yankees (9-7), with left fielder J.D. Martinez going 2-for-4 with a double and third baseman Chris Johnson going 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles. Johnson has done a nice job at the plate as he battles to make the club, and has raised his spring average to .348 with a couple of good swings of the bat Saturday. Martinez has looked strong at the plate all spring.

Jason Bourgeois, J.B. Shuck, Joe Thurston, Marwin Gonzalez (double) and Angel Sanchez each had a hit. Shuck had an RBI triple, and Sanchez came off the bench as a pinch-runner late in the game and subsequently singled to center.

The Astros were errorless once again.

What went wrong: Bud Norris was the second consecutive starter to get roughed up, giving up five hits, five runs and four walks in three innings in only his second Grapefruit League appearance of the spring. Norris needed 31 pitches to get out of the first, an inning which included two hits and two walks., He retired the first two batters he saw in the second before walking Brett Gardner and Curtis Granderson and giving up a three-run homer to Robinson Cano on an 0-2 pitch. He threw a clean third inning, pitching around a pair of walks, to finish at 73 pitches.

Rhiner Cruz, a Rule 5 pick from the Mets, hasn’t done much to help his chances of sticking with the club all season, never mind making it through Spring Training. He allowed a home run to Bill Hall — yes, that Bill Hall — in his one inning of work, giving him five earned runs allowed in 1 1/3 innings of work this spring.

At the plate, Jack Cust started at designated hitter and went 0-for-3, dropping him to 0-for-20 this spring. Cust has been limited to a designated hitter role and could be losing his grip on one of the backup outfield spots, especially with the way Travis Buck and J.B. Shuck have swung the bat from the left side.

Brad Snyder, Landon Powell and Brett Wallace each went 0-for-2 at the plate.

What they said: “I thought the guys did a good job of battling back [had the tying run at the plate to end the game]. That’s the second day in a row we got down five runs real early in the game, and it’s tough to come back. You see C.J. with those two doubles and J.D. had a couple of nice at-bats and Shuck smoked that ball [for a triple]. There was a lot of good things, too. We wish Bud would have gotten that 0-2 slider down in the dirt [to Cano], but that three-run bomb, when you look at the score, wound up to be pretty important.” — Astros manager Brad Mills.

What’s next: Veteran catcher Humberto Quintero, who’s missed the first two weeks of spring action because of a bulging disk in his back, will make his first start of the Grapefruit League season when the Astros meet the Mets at 12:05 p.m. CT Sunday in Kissimmee. Quintero, last year’s starter on Opening Day, is battling to make the club is a backup role. Right-hander Livan Hernandez will start for the Astros.

Injury update: Catcher Humberto Quintero (back) is scheduled to make his first start Sunday. … Left-hander Sergio Escalona (elbow) threw live batting practice Friday to hitters.

In lieu of St. Patrick’s Day, there are no photos today. The photos will return Sunday.

1 Comment

Why is Jack Crust still on this team????

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