Game 25: Harrell shines in making spot start

The Astros rode the strong pitching of Lucas Harrell and got some timely hitting to beat the Miami Marlins, 6-3, on Wednesday afternoon (boxscore) at Osceola County Stadium. We’ll get to the breakdown in a minute.

First, the club cut five more players from Major League camp on Wednesday morning, which helped to further clarify the roster composition. The biggest surprise was Brian Bixler, who was having a good spring. The Astros also named Wandy Rodriguez as their Opening Day starter, which came as no surprise.

Remaining players in Astros camp (non-roster players in italics):

Pitchers –Fernando Abad (LHP), David Carpenter, Rhiner Cruz, Sergio Escalona (LHP), J.A. Happ (LHP), Lucas Harrell, Livan Hernandez, Wilton Lopez, Jordan Lyles, Brandon Lyon, Brett Myers, Bud Norris, Fernando Rodriguez, Wandy Rodriguez (LHP), Henry Sosa, Kyle Weiland, Wesley Wright (LHP).

Catchers — Jason Castro, Carlos Corporan, Landon Powell, Chris Snyder.

Infielders — Jose Altuve, Matt Downs, Marwin Gonzalez, Chris Johnson, Carlos Lee, Jed Lowrie, Brett Wallace.

Outfielders — Brian Bogusevic, Travis Buck, J.D. Martinez, Justin Ruggiano, Jordan Schafer, J.B. Shuck.

Here’s the breakdown:

What went right: Lucas Harrell, starting in place of Bud Norris (his start was pushed back two days to give his triceps tightness more time to heal), breezed his way through five innings, allowing three singles (two infield singles) and no earned runs while throwing an efficient 54 pitches. He didn’t walk anyone or strikeout anyone, which kept his pitch count low.

Harrell appears to be competing for a spot as the long man in the bullpen, which is a guy capable of making a spot start here and there. His performance on Wednesday certainly helped that cause along.

Astros closer Brett Myers worked in a save situation for the first time this spring and pitched around a lead-off infield hit, getting a double play to end the game. Myers has allowed one earned run in his last seven outings.

Brian Bogusevic got a start in center field and continued to swing it well, going 1-for-4 with a two-run single in the fourth inning that got the Astros going. Marwin Gonzalez, who entered the game in the fourth after Jed Lowrie left with a sprained thumb, went 2-for-3, and Chris Johnson was 2-for-3 to raise his average to .340.

The Astros drew seven walks, with Carlos Lee walking three times and Jose Altuve walking twice. Matt Downs had a big pinch-hit two-run double in the fifth inning. Lowrie, J.D. Martinez, Travis Buck, Chris Snyder and Harrell also had hits. Harrell also put down a sacrifice bunt.

What went wrong: Lowrie left the game with a sprained right thumb, suffered in the third inning when he was diving back into the base. He underwent X-rays, which were negative.

On the surface, there wasn’t much else to pick at in this one. The Astros did commit an error in the fourth inning when Martinez and Bogusevic collided in the outfield and the ball dropped, an error that led to an unearned run against Harrell.

The only pitchers to give up earned runs were David Carpenter and Wesley Wright, who pitched two innings.

What’s they said: “I talked to [pitching coach Doug] Brocail and he said to go out there today and fill up the zone with the sinker and see what happens. I needed to kind of get extended out. They were hoping to get me a few more innings, so I didn’t want to use up a lot of pitches in the early going. Once I got out there and my sinker was going and I got some ground balls, I kind of got in a comfort zone and got in a groove.” — Astros pitcher Lucas Harrell on his outing Wednesday.

What’s next: Livan Hernandez, who’s a favorite to win a spot in the starting rotation, will start for the Astros when they travel to meet the New York Mets at 5:10 p.m. CT in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Hernandez hasn’t pitched in a Grapefruit League game since March 18 and instead pitched in a “B” game last week to get his work in.

Injury update: Shortstop Jed Lowrie suffered a sprained right thumb when he dived into second base on a pickoff attempt in the third inning Wednesday. There’s no word on long he might be out. … Center fielder Jordan Schafer is expected to start swinging a bat Friday in his attempt to return from a nerve injury to his left hand. Schafer saw a hand expert Tuesday in Atlanta and was told there was no significant damage.

Here are the photos:

A ball scoots between Wilton Lopez's leg during rag ball drills.

Manager Brad Mills talks with injured outfielder Jordan Schafer.

Chris Johnson fields a ball at third base during drills.

Astros catchers walk off the field after a drill.

Brett Wallace has played well at third this spring. Here he fires a ball to first during drills.

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