A case of the opening night jitters?
Astros catcher Jason Castro understandably wanted to look at the bright side, saying it was pretty remarkable the Astros were in position to win Friday night’s season-opener in the ninth inning despite making a whopping four errors. He has a point, but it was surprising to see the Astros play so poorly on defense after playing so well on defense during Spring Training, where fields are not always in the best of condition.
Third baseman Chris Johnson made a fielding error in the second and pitcher Wandy Rodriguez was charged with an error in the third when he fielded a Dexter Fowler bunt and threw to first base — where Jose Altuve was a step late getting to the bag. That allowed three unearned runs to score. Altuve committed a fielding error in the fourth allowing pitcher Jeremy Guthrie to reach.
The fourth and most costly error came in the eighth when Castro — seeing pinch-runner Eric Young Jr. was caught between second and third — fired to second base to try to get the out, only to watch the ball skip off the glove of Marwin Gonzalez and into center field to allow Young to score the winning run.
“In that kind of situation, you pretty much have to make a decision right away,” Castro said. “He turned to go back to second and I had to make a throw. He took a hard step and turned around. I think with him being as fast as he is, he probably would have been safe regardless. It was one of those plays that was tough. In that situation, I had to make a decision pretty much in the blink of an eye. He’s that quick. I tried to get him at second and unfortunately we didn’t get him there.”
With Young scoring without a hit after stealing second base as a pinch-runner, it was a reminder how dangerous speed can be. The Astros had two similar players last year who could fly in Michael Bourn and Jason Bourgeois and both have been traded, so don’t expect the Astros to win games with speed.
They’ll have to win games with pitching and defense. The pitching was plenty good Friday with Rodriguez allowing no earned runs in 6 1/3 innings and Fernando Rodriguez throwing 1 2/3 innings with allowing an earned run, but when you pitch and don’t field, you’re doomed.
“We’ve got to avoid those mistakes, but it’s only one game,” Johnson said. “We’ve got to learn from it quick and fix it tomorrow and get back after it.”