Game 9: Astros play long ball again
What happened: J.D. Martinez and Carlos Pena each hit their first homers of the spring to lead the Astros to a 6-5 win over the Braves on Saturday afternoon at windy Osceola County Stadium (boxscore).
What we learned: It takes 1B/DH Carlos Pena a little bit of time to get comfortable at the plate. Pena certainly appeared to be in a comfort zone when he hit his first homer of the spring in the first inning, the only hit in a 1-for-3 day that raised his spring batting average to .214.
“Sometimes you get out there and it feels like an alien planet when you’re in the box in a game situation,” he said. “I’ve had enough experience to understand I need to be patient and keep on working on the process and the results will take care of themselves.
“It definitely felt good to get one today and I thought my timing was pretty good, my contact was pretty good and it ended up going over the fence. I’m happy with the type of move I made on it and the contact and the way everything clicked in that particular swing.”
What we learned II: Getting a couple of hits, including a home runs, can do wonders for players in the spring, even if the stats really don’t mean much. RF J.D. Martinez has retooled his swing as he tries to make the club, and he went 2-for-3 with a long homer to left-center – his first of the spring.
“It’s Spring Training and you want to get in those situations where you go up there and hit the ball hard,” he said. “You don’t care about anything else. That’s all I can control, and everybody did a great job in front of me. [Justin] Maxwell hit that double and Fernando [Martinez] drove him in and it started a rally. Hitting’s contagious.”
What else: RHP Philip Humber was much sharper in his second outing of the spring, working three innings in relief and allowing two hits and one run while striking out three batters.
“I threw more strikes and I was behind the ball a little bit better,” Humber said. “All in all, a step in the right direction. It’ s not where I want to be yet, but definitely an improvement over that first one. That’s what you want.”
What went wrong: The Astros made a season-high four errors – 2B Marwin Gonzalez, C Jason Jaramillo, SS Tyler Greene, CF George Springer. Gonzalez and Springer both made errors in the seventh inning that led to three unearned runs and prompted manager Bo Porter to huddle the infield for a talk.
“When you’re up by four runs in the seventh inning, at that point you want to play outs,” he told the team. “You don’t want to do anything drastic with the baseball, you want to take the outs they give you and take it one out at a time and go ahead and secure the game. I don’t think that we took care of the baseball in that inning, and that allowed them to get back into the ballgame.”
What they said: “I love the fact our starters are all throwing strikes. They’re down in the strike zone and if you look at the reports, they’re getting a lot of ground balls, which is huge for our defense.” – Astros manager Bo Porter.
What’s next: RHP John Ely, who pitched two innings in relief in his only spring outing Feb. 26, gets the starts for Houston when it travels to Bradenton, Fla., to face the Pirates at 12:05 p.m. CT on Sunday. Ely is competing for a spot in the rotation. Also scheduled to pitch are Jordan Lyles, Sergio Escalona, Sam Demel, Chia-Jen Lo and Jose Valdez.
Who’s injured: RHP Hector Ambriz (ankle sprain) is close to appearing in his first game. … C Max Stassi (sports hernia surgery) has returned to camp and is expected to miss 6-8 weeks.
Tweets of the day:
JD Martinez did not need any help on that 2 run bomb.
— Jeff Luhnow (@jluhnow) March 2, 2013
After long day, I think I'll treat myself to a pedicure. #reward
— Wesley Wright (@realweswright) March 2, 2013
Links of the day: Astros notebook has Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez’s thoughts on Porter taking over the Astros. Porter played for Gonzalez in the Minor Leagues. We also catch up with Chris Johnson of the Braves in his first trip to Kissimmee since being traded by the Astros, and much more.
The day in pictures: