Game 27: Humber pitches well, Ankiel provides punch

What happened: Philip Humber allowed only three hits — all of them solo homers — in six innings and didn’t walk a batter, and Rick Ankiel hit a two-run homer in the ninth inning off Craig Kimbrel in the Astros’ 3-2 loss to the Braves on Saturday afternoon at Champions Stadium (boxscore).

What we learned: The signing of OF Rick Ankiel could pay off for the Astros. Ankiel, a non-roster invitee, had the only two hits the Astros collected against Atlanta with a seventh-inning double and his ninth-inning, two-run homer. Ankiel appears destined to start for the Astros on Opening Day and is hitting .395 with three homers and six RBIs this spring in 38 at-bats.

“Rick Ankiel is a professional Major League Baseball player that has played at a high level in this league, played on a World Series championship team and knows how to play the game,” manager Bo Porter said. “He has a great work habits, he is a good teammate. All the things we were looking for, we found in Ankiel and he’s been everything we could have imagined he could be.”

What we learned II: If IF Brandon Laird doesn’t make the team, he’ll be one of the absolute last guys to get cut. Laird, who can play first and third base, is battling for a backup infield spot and has made a good impression with the bat, hitting .310 with five homers and 12 RBIs in 47 at-bats.

“He’s in a good spot and he’s in a good spot because he’s put himself in a good spot,” Porter said. “He’s played well in different scenarios and situations we’ve put him in, and he’s gotten some big hits, some big RBIs. Again, it’s a guy we are definitely considering as far as the 25-man roster goes.”

What else: RHPs Josh Fields and Rhiner Cruz each had 1-2-3 innings in relief of Humber.

What went wrong: The Astros were held to only two hits.

What they said: “The first two I was being aggressive and didn’t throw the ball where I wanted to, but the last one it was a 3-1 count and I decide I wasn’t going to walk the guy. I felt the wind blowing in behind me and I said, ‘Well, maybe the wind will hold it up if he gets it.’ He hit it well enough to get it out of here.” — Astros RHP Philip Humber on the three homers he allowed.

What’s next: Minor League RHP David Martinez will start for the Astros on Sunday against the Miami Marlins at 12:05 p.m. CT at Osceola County Stadium. The Astros are trying to line up their starting pitching for the start of the regular season, but a bevy of relievers are expected to get some work in as well. Martinez was 9-5 with a 4.38 ERA in 27 games (26 starts) at Class A Lancaster last year.

Who’s injured: Nobody.

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