Game 13: Humber looks sharp in win over Nats

What happened: RHP Philip Humber threw four strong innings, and C Jason Castro bounced a two-run single into right field to score a pair of runs in the eighth inning to break a tie and send the Astros a 4-2 win over the Nationals on Thursday afternoon at Osceola County Stadium (boxscore).

What we learned: Humber has impeccable control of his fastball right now. He is still throwing mostly fastballs, and he was able to spot it so well against the Nats that he breezed through four innings.

“I threw my fastball where I wanted to throw it,” he said. “I threw four-seamers, two-seamers, and I think that helped things a little bit. When the [spring] season comes, the hitters are behind the pitchers for the most part. I’m going to have to throw more off-speed stuff than I did today [eventually]. But that’s definitely a good sign. That’s the first thing to come and usually everything else follows that.”

What we learned II: The Astros are better when they play at a quicker pace. Astros manager Bo Porter spoke to his pitchers and catchers on Thursday morning about the importance of working quicker, which he says won’t allow the defensive players to get lackadaisical on the infield.

“It’s something that we did address,” Porter said. “When you start to get deep counts and the pitchers are working slow, the defense gets on its heels a little bit. We reminded our guys, you want the plays made behind you, you need to get that ball, you need to go, you need to keep everybody on their toes and ready to go. The pitcher’s today did a great job with that, and Humber set the tone and every guy that came behind him, followed him.”

What else: OF Rick Ankiel‘s stolen bases in the eight inning set the stage for Castro’s game-winning hit. Not only did it get Ankiel into scoring position, but it forced the Nats bring the infield in with runners at second and third, and Castro bounced a hit over the infielder’s head. … OF Fernando Martinez went 2-for-2 with a double. … Only two of the Astros’ 11 hits were for extra bases. … OF J.D. Martinez, whose 22 at-bats this spring are tied for second-highest on the team, is hitting .364 (8-for-22).

What went wrong: The Astros only made one error, and it came when 1B Carlos Pena lost a high chopper in the sun and closed his glove either too early or too soon. … The Astros were 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position.

What they said: “I was thinking that Bo was coming out to talk to me and he said, ‘Good job, you’re done,'” — Astros LHP Dallas Keuchel on being removed from the game after two innings.

What’s next: RHP Jordan Lyles will start for the Astros when they face the Atlanta Braves at 12:05 p.m. CT at Osceola County Stadium. RHPs John Ely, Ross Seaton, Hector Ambriz and LHP Wesley Wright are also scheduled to pitch.

Who’s injured: LHP Erik Bedard (strained glute) is day-to-day). … C Max Stassi (sports hernia surgery) is out until April.

Tweet of the day:

Links of the day: You must read this feature on OF Brandon Barnes, whose tattoos reveal a lot about his life. The Astros notebook features owner Jim Crane talking about TV negotiations, Porter discussing the early-season rotation and LHP Erik Bedard talking about his injury.

The day in photos:

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Nolan Fontana ran the bases in big league camp

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Wesley Wright steps on first base following flip from Marc Krauss

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Trainer Nate Lucero and former first-round pick Jio Mier share a laugh

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Rene Garcia prepares to bunt

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Jake Goebbert

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Brett Oberholtzer pitches with Doug Brocail watching

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Hitting coach John Mallee and Carlos Pena

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Brett Wallace

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Rick Ankiel

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New TV announcers Alan Asbhy and Geoff Blum await pregame show

1 Comment

Impressed with the pitching today, especially Humber. There’s definitely a battle brewing for the 5 starter positions (or the 3 remaining positions).

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