Game 19: Astros pitchers stifle Nationals

The Astros sent the Nationals to their ninth loss in their last 10 games by riding strong pitching to beat Washington, 5-1, on Friday afternoon at Osceola County Stadium. Here is the boxscore.

Of course, the big news of the day at Astros camp was the announcement that Jimmy Paredes was being sent to Minor League camp to work at second base, meaning Chris Johnson is the likely starter at third base. Here’s a video package of Astros manager Brad Mills and GM Jeff Luhnow talking about the decision.

Here is the breakdown of Friday’s game:

What went right: Pitching, pitching, pitching. The Astros held the Nationals to three hits and didn’t give up a hit until Jayson Werth singled with two outs in the seventh inning off Brett Myers. Starter Bud Norris walked one batter in three hitless innings and Lucas Harrell retired all nine batters he faced. Then there was another strong outing by Myers, who pitched a scoreless innings while working in back-to-back games for the second time this spring. Brandon Lyon also had a scoreless inning.

Astros manager Brad Mills said early Friday he wanted to see the Astros tighten things up with only two weeks left before the start of the regular season, and the team did just that. Houston bashed 12 hits and didn’t make an error. Brian Bixler, starting in the outfield, strengthened his case to make the team by going 2-for-4 with a homer against his former team while starting in the outfield. Chris Johnson also belted a homer.

Carlos Lee also had a pair of hits and an RBI. Jed Lowrie, Travis Buck, Justin Ruggiano, Jose Altuve, Jack Cust and Brett Wallace also had hits. For Cust, his pinch-hit single in the third inning was his first of the spring, snapping an 0-for-24 drought. Cust still isn’t seeing any time in the outfield because of cranky left elbow.

What went wrong: Bud Norris was held to three innings because he woke up Friday with tightness in his triceps, but manager Brad Mills has no concerns and says Norris will be able to make his next start.

Other than a homer allowed by Fernando Abad to Jason Michaels, there’s not much that went wrong for the Astros. The only starting position player to not get a hit was Brian Bogusevic, but he walked and stole a base and scored.

What’s next: The race for the fifth spot in the starting pitching rotation will take center stage when Kyle Weiland takes the mound to face the Pirates at 12:05 p.m. CT in Bradenton, Fla. Weiland has allowed four hits and two runs in seven innings in his last two spring starts.

What they said: “He really had a tough time getting his arm loose and had a little tightness in his triceps. So when he went out there, [pitching coach Doug Brocail] was saying, ‘Let’s see if we can get 45 pitches out of you anyway and get some work in and get through three innings.’ Sure enough he did, and he threw the ball really well.” — Astros manager Brad Mills on starting pitcher Bud Norris.

Injury update: CF Jordan Schafer, who sprained his left hand making a diving catch in the outfield on Sunday, said he’s still a few days away from being able to return to the lineup. Schafer took some swings off a tee Friday but had to shut it down when he tried to hit live pitching. … LHP Sergio Escalona has hit a roadblock in his recovery from a hyper extended left elbow suffered swinging a bat early in camp. The Astros said he was set to be examined by a doctor. … OF Jack Cust was originally scheduled to start in the outfield in Friday’s B game, but was moved to designated hitter because of his balky left elbow. Cust has yet to make an appearance in the outfield during a Grapefruit League game this spring, but he came off the bench and delivered a pinch-hit in the third to snap an 0-for-24 spring drought.

Here are the pictures:

Brett Wallace reacts to a ball being hit while playing third base in B game.

Carlos Corporan trots into second base following a double in B game.

Jack Cust stands on deck while Brad Mills watches during a B game.

Ross Seaton fires a pitch in a B game.

Telvin Nash, Josh Zeid and Austin Wates sit in the dugout during B game.

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