March 2012

Game 8: Duke, Lyles get stretched out

The Astros got a good look at a pair of candidates for the starting rotation Saturday, with veteran left-hander Zach Duke and young right-hander Jordan Lyles both throwing four innings in a 5-2 loss to the Blue Jays. You can check out the boxscore here.

Here’s the breakdown:

What went right: Both Jordan Lyles and Zach Duke pitched pretty well, with both getting hurt by home runs. Duke gave up a two-run homer to former Pirates teammate Jose Bautista and a solo homer to Travis Snider. Lyles allowed a homer to Bautista, who’s one of the premier sluggers in the game.

Duke brought up a good point after his outing, saying he would have approached the at-bat to Bautista differently in the regular season with first base open. That’s why you can’t get too worked up about Spring Training results this time of year, especially for a veteran guy like Duke. Lyles continues to work with his new curveball grip and said he was happy with those pitches.

The Astros had eight hits from eight different players: George Springer, Matt Downs, J.D. Martinez, Chris Snyder, Chris Johnson, Jonathan Singleton, Joe Thurston and Brad Snyder. Chris Snyder, Singleton and Thurston hit doubles, with Thurston picking up the Astros’ only RBI. Springer scored a run on a balk.

What went wrong: Well, the Astros did give up three home runs, but Jose Bautista — who hit two of them — is going to do that to a lot of teams this year. In fact, he did it to the Astros last year in Toronto.

The Astros didn’t string many hits together and it didn’t help that they hit into two double plays and were 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position. Jordan Schafer (.333 spring average), Jack Cust (.000), Brett Wallace (.083) and Marwin Gonzalez (.083) each went 0-for-3. Gonzalez, who has the reputation as a polished defensive player, committed a fielding error.

After a hot start, the Astros’ bats have been stifled three games in a row.

What they said: “The Bautista at-bat, obviously if this were the regular season I would have worked at it a little different knowing I had first base open. The Snider home run, I wanted to go away with a fastball and threw it down the middle and good hitters hit those pitches out. All in all, I’m pretty pleased with how it went.” — Astros pitcher Zach Duke on his four-inning outing Saturday.

What’s next: Left-hander Wandy Rodriguez, who led the Astros in wins last year, makes his second start of the spring when the Astros return to Kissimmee to play the Detroit Tigers at 12:05 p.m. CT Sunday. The game should also mark the spring debut for infielder Angel Sanchez, who injured his back early in camp and has been cleared to play. The Astros have not announced what other pitchers will throw.

Injury update: Non-roster outfielders Justin Ruggiano and Travis Buck are both nursing mild oblique strains and should return to action in a day or two. … Left-hander Sergio Escalona (elbow inflammation) is throwing at 60 to 90 feet and could throw in the bullpen on Sunday or Monday. … Infielder Angel Sanchez (back) is expected to play Sunday and will be removed from the injury report. … Catcher Humberto Quintero (bulging disk) is catching bullpens.

Here are the photos from Dunedin:

The players stretch upon arriving in Dunedin. Notice the artificial turf infield.

Brad Mills hits some fungos. Or is it fungoes?

Joe Thurston scoops up a ground ball in drills.

Jack Cust prepares for batting practice.

J.D. Martinez works on tagging up from third.

Hard-working hitting coach Mike Barnett.

Game 7: Another rough day on the mound

There might not be a more difficult environment to judge pitchers, especially early in camp, than in central Florida. The wind is usually whipping around and bright, sunny skies make tracking fly balls difficult. What does this have to do with pitchers? Astros starter J.A. Happ was victimized by the conditions when left fielder J.D. Martinez lost a fly ball in the sun in the first inning Friday, and right Jason Bourgeois couldn’t quite corral a ball in the fourth as it darted through the wind and the sun’s rays.

Still, Happ was the first to say he needs to pitch around that stuff, and ultimately the outfielders know they need to make those plays. It was just one of those days at the ballpark for the Astros, who lost consecutive games for the first time this spring, 11-2, to the Jays at Osceola County Stadium. You can see the boxscore here.

The big news from camp Friday was the decision by the Astros to keep the pistol on the retro Colt .45s jerseys they will wear twice this year. You can read all about it here, including reaction from an original Colt .45.

Here’s the breakdown:

What went right: Let’s start with two guys coming off injuries — third baseman Jimmy Paredes and catcher Jason Castro.

Castro caught six innings — his longest stint of the spring — and continues to look strong. He went 1-for-2 at the plate with an RBI and a double and threw out the speedy Anthony Gose trying to steal. You remember Anthony Gose, right? He was one of the players the Astros acquired from the Phillies in the Roy Oswalt deal, but they quickly spun him to the Jays for Brett Wallace.

Paredes, meanwhile, made his first start of the spring after nursing a wrist injury and went 1-for-3 with a run scored and three balls that were hit hard, to both fields. He also made a nice defensive play at third base on a bases-loaded dribbler, picking the ball and throwing out the runner at first. He’s going to be fun to watch for sure.

The other Astros hits came off the bats of Brandon Barnes, Carlos Lee, George Springer and Jose Altuve.

Eight Astros pitchers took the mound, and David Carpenter, Wilton Lopez and Wesley Wright each threw a scoreless inning to end the game. Carpenter struck out two batters, and Lopez whiffed all three batters he faced. Wright had one strikeout.

The Astros didn’t commit an error.

What went wrong: Starting pitcher J.A. Happ was shaky and needed 64 pitches to make it through 2 2/3 innings, allowing five hits, three runs and three walks. It’s early and he’s still working on stuff, but Happ would like to see better results. Left fielder J.D. Martinez lost a ball in the sun in the first inning that led to a run, and perhaps both runs Happ allowed.

“With Happ, I would have liked to have seen him stay in control of the [first] inning a little bit,” manager Brad Mills said. “After that first guy gets on, that kind of shook him up a little bit. And then the ball got right in the sun for J.D. and it was kind of tough. At least we were able to talk about it with him and hopefully we can get away from that.”

Here are some video highlights and interviews with Happ and Mills.

Brett Myers is trying to build arm strength as he gets geared up to be the closer and allowed three hits and three runs in one inning, throwing a lot of fastballs. He, too, saw an outfielder misplay a fly ball because of the elements, which could have affected his line. Don’t worry about Myers. He’ll be fine.

Aneury Rodriguez was simply just knocked around. Rodriguez had a 1-2-3 fifth inning, striking out a pair, before getting tagged for five hits, five runs and two walks in the sixth as the game got out of hand.

“He had such a good first inning and then lead-off home run got to him and the four-pitch base on balls got him in trouble. All in all, the six walks was a big detriment to what happened today,” Mills said.

At the plate, the Astros were held to six hits. Jordan Schafer, Jason Bourgeois and Brian Bogusevic were 0-for-3.

What they said: “Offensively, their guy [pitcher Henderson Alvarez] was getting head of us throwing quality strikes right away. We still did a pretty good job of having some pretty good at-bats. We did hit quite a few balls hard. I’m trying to look at some of the bright things. We scored two runs, but when you get down like that it takes a lot out of your offense as well.” — Astros manager Brad Mills.

What’s next: Left-hander Zach Duke will state his case to be in the starting rotation when he makes his first start of the spring when the Astros meet the Blue Jays at 12:05 p.m. CT Saturday in Dunedin, Fla. Duke pitched three innings in relief Monday. Jordan Lyles will pitch behind Duke and could go three innings.

Injury update: Catcher Humberto Quintero, who had a cortisone injection into his back on Wednesday to help alleviate the pain from a bulging disk, will catch in the bullpen on Saturday and attempt to block balls and throw on Sunday, with hopes of making his return Monday against the Yankees. … Infielder Angel Sanchez, who has been dealing with back pain, didn’t play in Friday’s game against Toronto as originally planned. Astros manager Brad Mills said he didn’t want to put Sanchez in a game that was out of hand. Mills said the team doctors don’t want Sanchez riding the bus for four hours Saturday when the Astros travel to Dunedin, Fla., to play the Jays, so he plans to have him in the starting lineup Sunday at home against the Tigers. … LHP Sergio Escalona (elbow soreness) continues to play catch.

Here are the photos:

Brett Myers plays catch in the morning.

Astros Minor League players hit the field after hearing a speech from manager Brad Mills.

Third base coach Dave Clark hits balls to the outfielders.

Jose Altuve and Jason Bourgeois hit the field for BP.

Jason Bourgeois bunts as I tell him to keep the bat head out front.

Jordan Schafer fouls off a pitch in BP.

Brian Bogusevic gets his gear in order to get ready to hit.

Milo Hamilton lectures a group of journalism students from Ball State.

Jeff Luhnow and Brad Mills talk behind the cage.

Milo Hamilton interviews Jason Bourgeois, who I think should get into broadcasting when his career is over.

Morning update from Kissimmee

Good morning from Kissimmee, where the Astros (4-2) play the Toronto Blue Jays at 12:05 p.m. CT today at Osceola County Stadium. This will be the first of two consecutive games against the Jays, with the Astros going to Dunedin, Fla., tomorrow.

Here’s what’s going on this morning.

– Astros manager Brad Mills pretty much has all his regulars in he starting lineup for the first time today, with Brian Bogusevic at designated hitter. No, the Astros aren’t prepping for the American League. They will use the DH in home games for about another 10 days or so before the pitchers begin to hit. Anyway, Mills is still tinkering with his lineup and said he’s trying to decide where to bat switch-hitting shortstop Jed Lowrie: “I’m trying to get a feel for him,” he said.

– Catcher Humberto Quintero, who had a cortisone injection into his back on Wednesday to help alleviate the pain from a bulging disk, said he feels great. The veteran said he will catch in the bullpen on Saturday and attempt to block balls and throw on Sunday. Look for Quintero to perhaps be ready to play on Monday.

– Infielder Angel Sanchez, who has also been dealing with back pain, is expected to play today, though he’s not in the lineup. Mills said the team doctors don’t want Sanchez riding the bus for four hours Saturday when the Astros travel to Dunedin, Fla., to play the Jays, so he plans to have him in the starting lineup Sunday at home against the Tigers. “We want the opportunity to get him at-bats and be seen and do the things he’s capable of doing,” Mills said.

Astros lineup:

CF Jordan Schafer

RF Jason Bourgeois

LF J.D. Martinez

1B Carlos Lee

DH Brian Bogusevic

SS Jed Lowrie

C Jason Castro

3B Jimmy Paredes

2B Jose Altuve

LHP J.A. Happ

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.


Luhnow sends apology to Rangers’ Ryan, Daniels

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow, who created a minor stir last week when he said, while speaking at an analytical conference, that the Texas Rangers were spending in the international market like “drunken sailors,” said Thursday he had sent a direct apology Rangers president Nolan Ryan and general manager Jon Daniels.

“I reached out to Jon and to Nolan because it was taken out of context,” Luhnow said. “I don’t know what they heard, but I did reach out to them and explained that it was not a dig against that organization because they’ve done a great job there.”

The Rangers opened their wallets for pitcher Yu Darvish earlier this year signed him to a six-year, $60-million deal and they have signed Dominican teenager Jairo Beras, though the deal is being reviewed by Major League Baseball to confirm Beras’ age.

Luhnow spoke last week at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, which was co-chaired by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey. The conference provides a forum for industry professionals (executives and leading researchers) and students to discuss the increasing role of analytics in the sports industry.

Game 4: Rodriguez, Lee make debuts, Snyders make noise

The Astros (3-1) got a two-run home run by Brad Snyder and a solo home run by Chris Snyder — his second homer in as many starts — to beat the split-squad New York Mets, 4-1, Tuesday afternoon at windy Osceola County Stadium. Here’s the boxscore.

In addition to marking the spring debuts of Wandy Rodriguez and Carlos Lee, Astros outfielder Fernando Martinez was playing against his former team for the first time. Catch up on his story by clicking here.

Here’s the breakdown;

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Plenty. Wandy Rodriguez allowed one hit in three scoreless innings in his first start of the spring, despite struggling with his location. Aneury Rodriguez worked two scoreless innings, and David Carpenter, Wesley Wright and Wilton Lopez each worked a scoreless inning. Carpenter struck out a pair of batters.

Rodriguez threw 51 pitches and wasn’t hampered at all by the lower back strain that bothered him earlier in camp.

“I felt good today, but I need to work a lot because I missed a lot of my spots,” he said. “That’s normal because it’s my first outing. My arm felt very strong today.”

Chris Snyder started and caught six innings behind he plate and went 1-for-3 with his second home run of the spring. Brad Snyder, a non-roster outfielder, hit a two-run homer in the second inning, cutting his ball down the right-field line and into a stiff wind. Jason Bourgeois scorched the ball three times and had one hit to show for it.

J.B. Shuck had a hit and another walk and Marwin Gonzalez, Chris Johnson, Chris Wallace and Jose Altuve each had a hit. Carlos Lee made his spring debut after missing the first three games because of a strained right hamstring and was 1-for-3.

“I felt like I was in a good position to hit,” Lee said. “The timing was a little off, being the first time out there in a real game. But I like the way I had a good approach today and stayed back and used my hands. It’s all about timing now.”

The Astros didn’t commit and error for the third time in four spring games, and they outhit an opponent (9-5) for the first time this spring.

WHAT WENT WRONG: There’s not too much to be worried about here. The only run the Mets scored came against Brett Myers, who paid for a two-out walk in the fourth. But Myers still located pretty well and he will be fine.

I could get nit-picky and write the Astros were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position, but I won’t do that.

WHAT THEY SAID: “I don’t care if it’s Spring Training or the regular season or intra-squad, I want to lock it in right now and stay locked in as much as I can. To get results is a good sign, but I’m still trying to put together good at-bats, see some pitches and make good contact.” — Astros C Chris Snyder, who’s 2-for-5 with two homers in two spring starts.

WHAT’S NEXT: Right-hander Bud Norris will be the last Astros starting pitcher to make his first appearance of the spring when he starts against the Phillies at 12:05 p.m. CT Wednesday in Clearwater, Fla. Fernando Rodriguez, Jorge De Leon and Fernando Abad are also scheduled to pitch for Houston

INJURY UPDATE: Catcher Humberto Quintero traveled to Houston on Tuesday to have his ailing back examined by a team doctor and was expected to get a cortisone shot. . … Third baseman Jimmy Paredes, who has yet to appear in a spring game because of left wrist inflammation, will face live pitching Tuesday afternoon on one of the Minor League fields. … Infielder Angel Sanchez (back) took two sets of batting practice with the coaching staff and tracked pitches with Minor Leaguers.

Here is the day in photos:

Delino DeShields Jr. gets down for a ground ball in drills.

A group of pitchers awaits morning drills.

Jose Altuve works on his bunting.

Jed Lowrie looks pensive at the cage.

Fernando Martinez catches up with former teammate Ruben Tejada.

Former University of Houston catchers Rob Johnson and Chris Snyder talk.

Quintero heading to Houston for cortisone shot

Astros catcher Humberto Quintero left the team’s facility in Kissimmee early Tuesday to head to Houston to get his ailing back checked out. Quintero said he’s going to have a cortisone shot Wednesday and be back on the practice field Thursday with the hope of playing Friday against Toronto.

“I’m feeling better,” he said.

Quintero said trainers told him he could have some inflammation in one of the disks in his back, which could be pinching a nerve and causing discomfort down his right leg. He’ll be examined by team medical director Dr. David Lintner in Houston.

Meanwhile, third baseman Jimmy Paredes, who has yet to appear in a spring game because of left wrist inflammation, will face live pitching Tuesday afternoon on one of the Minor League fields. Infielder Angel Sanchez (back), whom manager Brad Mills said isn’t as far along in his recovery as Paredes, will take two sets of batting practice with the coaching staff and track pitches with Minor Leaguers. Mills said they’re both going to Viera, Fla., for Thursday’s game against the Nationals.

In other injury news, Carlos Lee is in the lineup for the first time Tuesday for the game against the Mets:

CF Jason Bourgeois

LF J.B. Shuck

SS Jed Lowrie

1B Carlos Lee

DH Fernando Martinez

3B Chris Johnson

C Chris Snyder

RF Brad Snyder

2B Jose Altuve

LHP Wandy Rodriguez

Game 3: Rough day for Astros pitchers

The Astros suffered their first Spring Training loss of the season when the Braves came to Kissimmee and beat them, 10-5, on Monday afternoon. And here I thought they were going to go undefeated. Here’s the boxscore.

Before we get to the breakdown, make sure you read the story of how Brett Wallace and Chris Johnson are pushing each other while they battle for the same spots on the field.

Here’s the breakdown:

WHAT WENT RIGHT: The only Astros pitcher who took the mound and didn’t allow a run was Henry Villar, who gave up one hit in his scoreless innings. Starter Jordan Lyles had a crisp second inning after a tough first inning, and Zach Duke stretched out to three innings and pitched out of trouble a few times.

Relief pitcher Xavier Cedeno struck out three batters in one inning of work around giving up a home run to Dan Uggla.

J.B. Shuck (2-for-2), Jed Lowrie (2-for-2) and Matt Downs (2-for-3), who got a start at third base, led the Astros’ 11-hit attack, which was their most in three spring games. Jordan Schaefer, Jason Bourgeois, J.D. Martinez, Chris Snyder and Joe Thurston also had hits. Jonathan Villar walked twice.

Bogusevic stole two bases. The Astros also turned three double plays. Also, the Astros didn’t strike out in 34 at-bats.

There certainly were plenty of teachable moments for Astros manager Brad Mills, who watched his pitchers allow 13 hits and six walks. The Braves had runners on base in all nine innings, allowing his pitching staff and his defense to see plenty of different situations.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Astros pitchers had trouble finding the strike zone, walking six batters. Lyles endured a 27-pitch first inning and wound up only going two innings, allowing four hits, two runs and one walk. Duke gave up three hits, two walks and one run in three innings.

Rhiner Cruz, the Astros’ Rule 5 pick, made his first appearance and didn’t retire any of the five batters he faced, giving up two hits, four runs (three earned) and two walks. Juan Abreu and Enerio Del Rosario each gave up one hit and one run in one inning of work.

Jack Cust went 0-for-3 and Fernando Martinez went 0-for-2, a day after hitting a three-run home run

WHAT THEY SAID: “There was a lot of defensive things we can take from this game because there were guys on and offensively there are some things we can take from the game. Again, I thought we ran the bases pretty good and were aggressive. Getting to the latter innings, the all-important strike kind of eluded us a little bit.” – Astros manager Brad Mills.

WHAT’S NEXT: First baseman Carlos Lee, who sat out the first three games of the spring season to rest his strained right hamstring, will make his Grapefruit League debut for the Astros against the Mets at 12:05 p.m. Tuesday in Kissimmee. Lefty Wandy Rodriguez will make his first start of the spring for the Astros and is scheduled to pitch three innings.

INJURY UPDATE: Catcher Humberto Quintero (back/hip) is still a few days from getting in the lineup. … Third baseman Jimmy Paredes (wrist) and infielder Angel Sanchez (back) continue to progress and are taking batting practice.

Here is the day in photos:

Carlos Lee scoops up a ball at first.

Matt Downs fields a ball at third base.

Livan Hernandez works in the bullpen.

Former Astros CF Michael Bourn walks to the batting cage with Chris Johnson and Brett Wallace.

Carlos Lee jokes around at the cage.

J.D. Martinez awaits batting practice.

Michael Bourn catches up with third base coach Dave Clark.

Michael Bourn and Carlos Lee get reacquainted.

Jack Cust stretches before BP.

Carlos Lee will make debut Tuesday

Astros slugger Carlos Lee is scheduled to be in the lineup for Tuesday’s game against the Mets in his first Spring Training game of the year. Lee sat out the first two games with a mild right hamstring strain, but he said Monday he feels great and can play. Lee said he ran the bases and 20 sprints on Sunday and had no issues.

Meanwhile, catcher Humberto Quintero (back/hip) is still a few days from getting in the lineup, manager Brad Mills said. Third baseman Jimmy Paredes (wrist) and infielder Angel Sanchez (back) continue to progress and will take batting practice Monday. Mills said they’re tentatively planned to take live batting practice on Tuesday.

Today’s game will be the first Astros center fielder Jordan Schafer against his former team. Michael Bourn, who was traded to the Braves in the Schafer deal last year, will start for Atlanta.

“It will be fun just to be able to go against some of my old guys,” Schafer said. “It’s just another Spring Training game and trying to get ready for the season, but it will be fun to go against my old teammates.”

Schafer worked out in the offseason with Martin Pardo and even a few times with Matt Diaz. He’s also kept in touch with Tim Hudson and Jair Jurrjens, who will start today for the Braves.

“When you’re on a team for a few years you build friendships, but at the same time I’m still getting ready to go for the season,” he said.

Here is the Astros lineup:

CF Jordan Schafer

2B Jose Altuve

RF Brian Bogusevic

LF J.D. Martinez

DH Jack Cust

SS Jed Lowrie

3B Matt Downs

1B Scott Moore

C Jason Castro

—-

RHP Jordan Lyles, followed by Zach Duke

Game 2: Astros break out big bats

Chris Snyder, Fernando Martinez and J.D. Martinez each homered to send the Astros past the Nationals, 10-2, on Sunday afternoon in Viera, Fla. The Astros improved to 2-0. Click here for the boxscore.

Before we get to the breakdown, be sure to check out the feature story on George Springer and Delino DeShields Jr., which includes a video interview with Springer.

Here’s the breakdown:

WHAT WENT RIGHT: You have to start with offense. The Astros broke the game open with four runs in the third inning and five runs in the fourth inning to beat the Nats for the second day in a row despite being outhit (11-8).

Catcher Chris Snyder, making his first start, hit a long solo homer down the left-field line in the third off Nats starter Stephen Strasburg. Outfielder J.D. Martinez belted a three-run homer in the third, and designated hitter Fernando Martinez – claimed off waivers from the Mets in January – hit a three-run homer in the fourth to cap a 2-for-2 day with a walk.

Fernando Martinez is trying to make the roster as an outfielder, and he’s got a shot if he stays healthy considering he swings left-handed and has power. Chris Johnson, Scott Moore, Brian Bixler and Jordan Schafer also had hits Sunday.

“We had some good at-bats in key situations,” manager Brad Mills said. “Snyder’s home run, that ball was hit. The other two might have gotten a little extra help [from the wind]. Fernando Martinez’s home run would have been in the gap anyway and would have been a double. J.D. put a good swing on a ball that was in on him. Any time you get a three-run home run, that’s a huge boost.”

It was another good day on the mound for the Astros, who walked only two batters. Starter J.A. Happ allowed three hits and one run in two innings. He was up in the zone a bit in his second inning of work, but was able to get outs at key times.

Henry Sosa, who was also up in the zone in his the second inning, worked around four hits to throw two scoreless innings. Paul Clemens made his debut and pitched a scoreless frame. The Nats didn’t appear to be seeing the ball very well off of him. Lucas Harrell allowed three hits and a run in two innings and had good life on the baseball, though his command wasn’t there. Fernando Rodriguez looked really sharp, striking out two of the three batters he faced, including Bryce Harper. David Carpenter finished it out, allowing one hit in one inning.

The Astros have yet to commit an error this spring.

Click here to hear Fernando Martinez and J.A. Happ discuss their games.

WHAT WENT WRONG: For the second day in a row, there isn’t much negative to single out. The Astros did strike out 10 times and left 13 runners on base, but let’s not get nitpicky. They did draw seven walks, after all, and had a lot of base runners.

WHAT THEY SAID: “He’s got good ride on them [fastballs]. It will ride back through the zone. That was the first time I faced him. Obviously, you hear about him, but it’s definitely live stuff. Him coming off Tommy John and day two of Spring Training games, he’s definitely got good stuff.” – catcher Chris Snyder on facing Stephen Strasburg.

WHAT’S NEXT: Jordan Lyles, who’s battling for a spot in the rotation, makes his Grapefruit League debut for the Astros when they face the Braves on Monday in Kissimmee. The game could also mark the spring debut of veteran slugger Carlos Lee, who sat out the first two games with a mild right hamstring strain.

INJURY UPDATE: Carlos Lee (mild right hamstring strain) is expected to be in the lineup Monday. … Catcher Humberto Quintero (right leg) is day-to-day. … Third baseman Jimmy Paredes (left wrist) and infielder Angel Sanchez (back) are taking batting practice against the coaching staff, but not ready to play.

Sorry, no pictures today. The Astros hit in the cages in Viera on a rainy Sunday morning, leaving me no opportunities to snap a few photos. Check back tomorrow.

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