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Game 6: Feldman benefits from five-homer outburst

The result: The Astros got five home runs from five different players — two-runs shots by Jason Castro and Jonathan Villar and solo blasts by Matt Dominguez, Jesus Guzman and Alex Presley — and rode seven strong innings from Scott Feldman to snap a three-game losing streak with a 7-4 win over the Angels on Sunday (game story and boxscore).

The analysis: You certainly wouldn’t expect the Astros to beat other teams via the long ball very often, especially when slugger Chris Carter isn’t in the lineup. They only managed seven hits against the Angels, but when five of them leave the yard, it makes life easier on everyone.

“Home runs always help,” manager Bo Porter said. “The biggest one was Villar’s home run there late in the game that gave us that extra cushion (in the seventh, which made it 7-1), and as you can see, we definitely needed it.”

Things got hairy in the ninth when the Angels scored three against Anthony Bass, but Chad Qualls came in and closed it out. He struck out Kole Calhoun to end the game and strand Mike Trout on deck. The Astros’ bullpen is 2-for-2 in save situations so far this year, which is a huge plus after last year’s struggles.

And how good was Feldman? More on him below.

Player of the game: RHP Scott Feldman. The big right-hander, making his second start for the Astros, threw seven innings and allowed three hits and one run to improve to 2-0. He did a great job keeping Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton and David Freese off base, holding them to 1-for-14.

“You’re kind of lucky at some point,” he said. “Trout, this guy is not even a human being up there sometimes. Just thankful I made some pretty good pitches with him and I was able to keep him off the bases. That’s huge.”

Stat of the game: Feldman is just one of four Astros pitchers to pitch at least 6 2/3 innings and allow one run or less in his first two starts in an Astros uniform. The others are Roger Clemens (2004), Robin Roberts (1965) and Dean Stone (1962).

Quote of the day: “It’s almost like when you play poker and a person folds their hand. I’m not going to show you my cards,” — Astros manager Bo Porter when asked how they would have approached Mike Trout had he batted in the ninth.

Other stuff: The save by Qualls was the 52nd of his career and first since June 9, 2010. It was his first for the Astros since Sept. 26, 2007. … 3B Matt Dominguez already has two home runs after not hitting his second homer of last season until May 11. He finished with 21. Both of his hits have been homers. The last Astros player with two homers for his first two hits was Rick Ankiel last year. … The Astros have scored first-inning runs in five of their six games this year.

Links:

Fowler still not available, but resting at home

Porter thinks Corporan blocked plate properly

Castro returns to lineup, homers in first AB

Williams gives teammates scouting report on Angels

Crain set to leave for Florida, continue rehab

Tweet of the day:

Astros still without ailing Fowler

At home recuperating from a stomach virus that had forced him to the hospital, Astros center fielder Dexter Fowler wasn’t at the ballpark for Sunday’s game against the Angels. Manager Bo Porter said doctors wanted him to continue to rest at home.

“We’ll continue to monitor it and hopefully get him back soon,” Porter said.

When asked if Fowler would be available to travel to the team to Toronto for a three-game series against the Blue Jays beginning Tuesday, Porter wasn’t sure.

“When you start talking about a virus running through your body, it takes time,” he said. “We don’t know how much longer it’s going to be. We know the doctors are treating him and we’ll see how the rest of [Sunday] goes.”

Fowler hasn’t played since going 6-for-12 in the Astros’ season-opening series win over the Yankees. He went 2-for-4 in each of the three games with two doubles, a triple and a home run, becoming the first player to record at least two runs and two extra-base hits in the first two games of a season since Barry Bonds in 2002.

“He was off to a great start, and we like having that guy at the top of the lineup and manning center field,” Porter said. “Not only that, the energy he brings to the ballclub off the field as well is missed in all those areas.”

While the Astros have missed Fowler, they’re fortunate to have Alex Presley available to play center field in his absence (he started Friday and Sunday). The Astros were going to carry 13 pitchers to enter the season before claiming Presley off waivers just prior to the start of the season in a move that has been beneficial.

“It was definitely something you look at now and had we not made that decision, it would have been very difficult with everything that’s happened to Dexter the last few days here,” Porter said.

HOUSTON ASTROS vs. LOS ANGELES ANGELS
MINUTE MAID PARK – HOUSTON, TX
APRIL 6, 2014 – 1:10 PM CT
LOS ANGELES ANGELS (2-3) HOUSTON ASTROS (2-3)
Player Player
RF Kole Calhoun (L) SS Jonathan Villar (S)
CF Mike Trout LF Robbie Grossman (S)
1B Albert Pujols C Jason Castro (L)
LF Josh Hamilton (L) 2B Jose Altuve
3B David Freese 1B Jesus Guzman
DH Raul Ibanez (L) DH Marc Krauss (L)
2B Howie Kendrick 3B Matt Dominguez
C Hank Conger (S) CF Alex Presley (L)
SS Erick Aybar (S) RF L.J. Hoes
Starting Pitcher Starting Pitcher
RHP Jered Weaver RHP Scott Feldman

Game 3: Lack of execution costs Astros sweep

The result: Coming off a pair of rousing victories over the Yankees to begin the season, the Astros squandered early scoring chances, grounding into four double plays in the first five innings, and flubbed in the field to drop a 4-2 decision in the series finale at Minute Maid Park (story and boxscore).

The analysis: The Astros nearly walked out of Minute Maid Park with a sweep of the Yankees, though winning two of three games isn’t bad. Their biggest problem in the series finale was executing in the clutch. They grounded into four double plays in the first five innings, and then the Yankees bullpen absolutely shut them down.

“We had our chances, especially early,” Astros manager Bo Porter said. “We had base runners everywhere. We were probably one big hit away from kind of getting some separation early in the game, but give the New York Yankees credit. They fought and found a way to get out of here with a win.”

The Astros, who have yet to commit an error this season, had a huge flub defensively in the seventh when a two-out pop up between home plate and the pitcher’s mound dropped, allowing Ichiro Suzuki to score from second to make it 4-2. Catcher Carlos Corporan was under the ball before looking towards pitcher Brad Peacock and third baseman Matt Dominguez to his left as the ball fell.

“I went after it because I didn’t want that thing to fall on the ground,” Corporan said. “I saw the pitcher and saw Matty and I kind of was in the middle of everybody. I should have caught it and took charge of the ball. Things happen.”

Starting pitcher Brett Oberholtzer didn’t pitch poorly, coming within an out of a quality start. He’s still working on a curveball, which he threw with confidence. Also, reliever Brad Peacock did a nice job picking up the final 3 1/3 innings, allowing two hits and one run on the dropped pop up.

Player of the game: CF Dexter Fowler once again. He went 2-for-4 for the third consecutive game, this time with two singles a run scored and an RBI. he’s the first Astros player with at least two hits in his first three games in an Astros uniform since Ken Caminiti from July 16-18, 1987 as a rookie.

Stat of the game: Oberholtzer has pitched at least five innings in each of his 11 Major League career starts. That streak ranks second in franchise history behind Mark Lemongello, who went at least five innings in each of his first 14 career starts with the Astros (Sept. 14, 1976-May 29, 1977).

Quote of the day: “We could have communicated better. To give them a free out like that later in the game, it was tough. Like I said, you just learn from it and move forward and chalk it up to a learning experience,” Astros first baseman Marc Krauss on the two-out pop up that dropped to the ground in the seventh inning, costing the Astros a run.

Other stuff: Astros starter have posted a 1.56 ERA through the season’s first three games.

Links:

Jason Castro is day to day with a bruised foot

Replay used to check count in Astros-Yanks

Crain heading to Florida to continue rehab work

Porter happy with Astros approach at the plate

Astros have top pool for international signings

Tweets of the day:

 

Astros vs. Yankees lineup

HOUSTON ASTROS vs. NEW YORK YANKEES
MINUTE MAID PARK – HOUSTON, TX
APRIL 3, 2014 – 7:10 PM CT
           
NEW YORK YANKEES (0-2) HOUSTON ASTROS (2-0)
           
Player Player
11 Brett Gardner (L) CF 21 Dexter Fowler (S) CF
2 Derek Jeter SS 19 Robbie Grossman (S) LF
36 Carlos Beltran (S) DH 15 Jason Castro (L) C
25 Mark Teixeira (S) 1B 27 Jose Altuve 2B
12 Alfonso Soriano LF 23 Chris Carter DH
29 Francisco Cervelli C 18 Marc Krauss (L) 1B
14 Brian Roberts (S) 2B 30 Matt Dominguez 3B
31 Ichiro Suzuki (L) RF 8 Alex Presley (L) RF
26 Yangervis Solarte (S) 3B 6 Jonathan Villar (S) SS
Starting Pitcher Starting Pitcher
47 Ivan Nova RHP 39 Brett Oberholtzer LHP

Game 2: Albers backs Cosart’s scoreless start

The result: The Astros got five scoreless innings from Jarred Cosart, another big day at the plate from Dexter Fowler and a lock down job by the bullpen to beat the Yankees for the second day in a row, 3-1, on Wednesday night at Minute Maid Park (game story and boxscore).

The analysis: You can’t say enough about the job Matt Albers did by striking out Derek Jeter to end the seventh and then fanning three in a row after Carlos Beltran had started the eighth with a double. This is exactly why the Astros brought him aboard, along with Chad Qualls and Jesse Crain (injured), to give them a fighting chance in key situations.

“We’ve been in these situations before, and when you get put in these situations just be aggressive,” Albers said. “That goes for not only me and Chad, but for everybody in the bullpen. ‘Let’s go after these guys and see what happens and trust your stuff and try not to let the situation overtake you emotionally.’”

Then there was Jarred Cosart, who threw five scoreless innings. You could say he picked up where he left off last year, but that wouldn’t be totally accurate. He didn’t walk anybody. If you remember, walks were a big issue last year for Cosart, who had more walks (35) than strikeouts (33) in his 10-start Major League debut.

“I think you look at the number of curveballs he threw for strikes,” manager Bo Porter said. “He was able to throw his curveball for strikes early in the count. He actually threw a couple of 3-2 curveballs. We all know he has an overpowering fastball, his changeup is coming. But the way he used his breaking ball today really allowed him to keep them off balance and he was able to go five strong innings.”

Player of the game: CF Dexter Fowler, who went 2-for-4 with a pair of extra-base hits for the second night in a row. Fowler homered in the first inning and tripled and scored in the third and has proven to be a huge boost at the top of the lineup through two games.

“Being a leadoff guy, you’re the catalyst,” Fowler said. “That’s all I was trying to do, just get on base and let the other guys do their jobs. We work together as a team and we can win a lot of games.”

Stat of the game: Cosart threw 57 of his 88 pitches for strikes. At 64.8 percent, it was the highest strike percentage for a single game in his brief career.

Quote of the day: “I love coming in any time they call my name. If I get a chance to come in and close a game out, I love that, too. I had a lot of fun out there. It was fun, especially against the Yankees. A team like that, with the type of lineup they have, it was a blessing to be able to get the job done,” Astros reliever Josh Fields, who got the save.

Other stuff: The Yankees were 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position. … Fowler is the first player in Astros history with two runs scored in each of his first two games with the team. … Fowler and Robbie Grossman both had triples, marking the Astros’ first game with multiple triples since Aug. 23 against the Blue Jays when they had three. They only one had the rest of that season. … The Astros are 4-13 against the Yankees all-time.

Links:

Astros shower Jeter with applause, gifts

Timing of Springer call-up depends on many factors

Bo Porter explains why Altuve will hit fourth sometimes

Astros unveil Minor League rosters

Krauss, Presley get to start vs. Yanks

Tweets of the day

 

Why is Jose Altuve hitting cleanup?

As promised, Astros manager Bo Porter had catcher Jason Castro hitting third and second baseman Jose Altuve hitting fourth Wednesday against the Yankees. It was only the third time in Altuve’s career – the other two came in his rookie season in 2011 – he batted cleanup.

With Dexter Fowler entrenched the leadoff spot and Robbie Grossman batting second, Porter is flip-flopping Castro and Altuve based on matchups – Castro (left-handed bat) hitting third against right-handers, and Altuve (right-handed bat) hitting third against lefties.

“Obviously, Altuve and Castro are arguably our two best hitters, and having Fowler and Grossman at the top, those two guys are switch-hitters who can get on base,” Porter said. “When you hit Castro third and a right-hander is pitching, you’re basically making sure the left-hander gets the extra at-bat given the matchup scenario.

“When it’s a left-hander pitching, you put Altuve in the three-hole to make sure the right-hander gets the extra at-bat given the match-up scenario.”

The rest of the lineup will also depend on matchups for the most part, though third baseman Matt Dominguez has hit seventh and shortstop Jonathan Villar has batted ninth in each of the first two games. Designated hitter Chris Carter hit sixth against lefty CC Sabathia on Tuesday and fifth against a right-hander on Wednesday.

Astros set Minor League rosters

The Astros have set their preliminary 2014 Minor League rosters for four of their affiliates, Triple-A Oklahoma City, Double-A Corpus Christi, Class A advanced Lancaster and Class A Quad Cities. The announcement was made by Astros director of player development Quinton McCracken.

These rosters are subject to change and will not be officially finalized until the Minor League Opening Day. Rosters do not include Disabled List players.

Triple-A Oklahoma City:

After going 82-62 and capturing an American Southern Division title, the RedHawks are primed for another successful season. Six players on the roster are ranked among the Astros top 30 prospects ranked by MLB.com: Outfielder George Springer (No. 3), pitcher Mike Foltynewicz (6), first baseman Jon Singleton (4), outfielder Domingo Santana (8), catcher Max Stassi (12) and pitcher Nick Tropeano (17).

Overall, 15 players on the preliminary roster spent time with the RedHawks in 2013. Six logged time with the Astros last season, and three others suited up for different Major League teams.

The RedHawks open the season Thursday in Round Rock at 7:05 p.m.

PITCHERS

Jake Buchanan

Jose Cisnero

Paul Clemens

Bobby Doran

Darin Downs*

Mike Foltynewicz

Chia-Jen Lo

David Martinez

Collin McHugh

Rudy Owens*

Jason Stoffel

Nick Tropeano

Pat Urckfitz*

Josh Zeid

CATCHERS

Ryan McCurdy

Carlos Perez

Max Stassi

INFIELDERS

Japhet Amador

Erik Castro*

Jonathan Meyer

Gregorio Petit

Jon Singleton*

Ruben Sosa#

Ronald Torreyes

OUTFIELDERS

Adron Chambers

Domingo Santana

George Springer

Austin Wates

* – denotes left-hander

# – denotes switch-hitter

Double-A Corpus Christi:

PITCHERS

Travis Ballew

Colton Cain*

Luis Cruz*

Jorge De Leon

T.J. Geith*

Matt Heidenreich

Jordan Jankowski

Andrew Robinson

Brady Rodgers

David Rollins*

Ross Seaton

Tommy Shirley*

Alex Sogard*

Aaron West

CATCHERS

Rene Garcia

Tyler Heineman#

INFIELDERS

M.P. Cokinos

Matt Duffy

Nolan Fontana*

Enrique Hernandez

Jio Mier

Joe Sclafani#

OUTFIELDERS

Andrew Aplin*

Delino DeShields Jr.

Chris Epps*

Leo Heras*

Preston Tucker*

Class A Lancaster:

PITCHERS

Mark Appel

Jamaine Cotton

Chris Devenski

Michael Dimock

Josh Hader*

Mike Hauschild

Mitchell Lambson*

Lance McCullers

Juan Minaya

Daniel Minor

J.D. Osborne*

Tyson Perez

Kyle Smith

Vincent Velasquez

Kyle Westwood

CATCHERS

Roberto Pena

Jake Rodriguez

INFIELDERS

Carlos Correa

Tony Kemp*

Brandon Meredith

Carlos Perdomo

Rio Ruiz*

OUTFIELDERS

Justin Gominsky

Dan Gulbransen*

Teoscar Hernandez

Jordan Scott*

Danry Vasquez*

Class A Quad Cities:

PITCHERS

Tyler Brunnemann

Patrick Christensen

Chris Cotton*

Kent Emanuel*

Michael Feliz

Evan Grills*

Jandel Gustave

Adrian Houser

Chris Lee*

Albert Minnis*

Zach Morton

Gonzalo Sanudo

Andrew Thurman

Andrew Walter

CATCHERS

Brett Booth

Brian Holberton*

Jobduan Morales#

INFIELDERS

Austin Elkins#

Conrad Gregor*

Jack Mayfield

Chase McDonald

Chan Moon*

Tyler White

OUTFIELDERS

Jon Kemmer*

Tanner Mathis*

Brett Phillips*

James Ramsay*

Game 1: Everyting goes well against Yanks

The result: The Astros won on Opening Day for the second year in a row, riding early homers by Jesus Guzman and L.J. Hoes and a strong performance from starting pitcher Scott Feldman to beat the Yankees, 6-2, on Tuesday (story and boxscore).

The analysis: Talk about your smashing debuts. Things couldn’t have gone much better for the Astros, who got clutch hitting early in the game, ran the bases with aggression, played airtight defense and got strong performances on the mound from Feldman and the bullpen. In short, everything went right.

Whether the Astros can play with this kind if aggression and intensity every night remains to be seen, but this was the tone manager Bo Porter wanted to set in Spring Training. Before we get too excited, let’s the remember the Astros beat the Rangers on Opening Day a year ago and were nearly the victim of a perfect game the following night en route to 111 losses.

Defensively, SS Jonathan Villar made a great diving play to rob Carlos Beltran in the first, 2B Jose Altuve made an over-the-shoulder catch of a Brett Gardner ball in the second and 3B Matt Dominguez started a 5-4-3 double play in the eighth to squash a Yankees rally.

“I felt like we were really on our toes. Even the double play there that [Chad] Qualls was able to get in that inning when they started to mount a little bit of a comeback, it was good to see a ground-ball pitcher in Qualls in that situation get the ground ball and turn that 5-4-3 double play,” Porter said. “It was outstanding defense all the way around the board. I felt our staff did a tremendous job of positioning and I felt we were in the right place all night, which allowed our players to make those plays.”

Player of the game: How can you not go with Feldman, who worked 6 2/3 scoreless innings and allowed two hits and two walks in his Astros debut?

“He does what he does every time he goes out there,” Porter said. “He’s a strike-thrower, pitches to both side sof the plate, can throw three pitches in any count. He’s a veteran and a guy that understands exactly what he’s trying to do with each and every hitter that steps in the box. When you pitch at that kind of pace, it keeps the defense on their toes and they know the ball is going to be put in play and they make plays.”

Stat of the game: Dexter Fowler doubled and scored in each of his first two plate appearances, joining Vinny Castilla (May 15, 2001) and Jack Hiatt (April 8, 1971) as the only players in team history with two doubles and two runs scored in their Astros debut.

Quote of the day: “It’s the best feeling I’ve ever had in my career,” Guzman on his first-inning homer.

Other stuff: Feldman’s last four starts against the Yankees have been quality starts (2.30 ERA in 27 1/3 innings). … Guzman became the first Astros player to homer in his first plate appearance with the team since Rick Ankiel’s pinch-hit homer last Opening Day against Texas. … Astros have sold out 11 consecutive Opening Day games.

Links:

Richard Justice column: High-energy Astros offer glimpse to future

Ryan-Biggio first pitch a proud moment for Houston

First opener a thrill for least experienced Astros

Grossman fulfills goal by starting in two-hole

Fowler undaunted by challenges of Tal’s Hill

Astros brass appreciates club’s hard work

Astros plan to be wise when weighing extensions

Getting off to a good start is key for Astros

Reunion with Pettitte on tap for Jeter

Cosart ready to take the ball in Game 2

Tweets of the day:

Astros roster by the numbers

Astros’ Opening Day Roster by the numbers:

9 – Astros players who were also on last year’s Opening Day roster: Castro, Altuve, Dominguez, Harrell, Fields, Corporan, Gonzalez, Peacock and Carter.

4 – Astros players who were on the 2012 Opening Day roster: Harrell, Castro, Altuve, Gonzalez.

8 – Astros players making their first Opening Day roster: Chapman, Cosart, Grossman, Hoes, Krauss, Keuchel, Oberholtzer and Villar.

14 – Astros acquired via trade: Bass, Chapman, Cosart, Fowler, Oberholtzer, Peacock, Carter, Dominguez, Gonzalez, Guzman, Villar, Grossman, Hoes and Krauss.

2 – Astros drafted by club and have played entire career in organization: Keuchel and Castro.

6 – Free agent acquisitions: Altuve (non-drafted), Corporan (Minor League contract), Feldman, Albers, Qualls and Williams.

1 – Rule 5 acquisitions: Fields.

2 – Waiver claims: Harrell and Presley.

1 — Players acquired by former GM Tim Purpura: Altuve.

7 – Players acquired by former GM Ed Wade: Cosart, Harrell, Keuchel, Oberholtzer, Castro, Corporan, Villar.

17 – Players acquired by GM Jeff Luhnow: Everybody else.

20 – Players born in the U.S.

2 – Players born in Texas: Albers and Cosart.

2 – Players born in Hawaii: Williams and Feldman.

1 – Players born in Puerto Rico: Corporan.

1 – Players born in Dominican Republic: Villar.

3 – Players born in Venezuela: Altuve, Gonzalez, Guzman.

35 – Age of oldest player on roster: Qualls.

22 – Age of youngest player on roster: Villar.

26.8 – Average age of the Opening Day roster.

2 – Players with playoff experience: Qualls, Williams.

1 – Players with World Series experience: Qualls.

0 – Players with a World Series championship ring.

11 – Letters in longest last name: Oberholtzer

4 – Letters in shortest last name: Bass and Hoes

Astros set Opening Day roster

PITCHERS (12+3)
37 Albers, Matt……………………..RHP
45 Bass, Anthony…………………..RHP
66 Chapman, Kevin………………. LHP
48 Cosart, Jarred…………………..RHP
26 Crain, Jesse*…………………….RHP
46 Feldman, Scott………………….RHP
35 Fields, Josh………………………RHP
64 Harrell, Lucas…………………..RHP
60 Keuchel, Dallas…………………LHP
39 Oberholtzer, Brett……………..LHP
41 Peacock, Brad…………………..RHP
50 Qualls, Chad…………………….RHP
43 White, Alex*…………………….RHP
36 Williams, Jerome………………RHP
59 Wojciechowski, Asher*………RHP
CATCHERS (2)
15 Castro, Jason………………………..C
22 Corporan, Carlos………………….C
INFIELDERS (6)
27 Altuve, Jose………………………… IF
23 Carter, Chris………………… IF/OF
30 Dominguez, Matt………………… IF
9 Gonzalez, Marwin……………….. IF
14 Guzman, Jesus………………. IF/OF
6 Villar, Jonathan…………………… IF
OUTFIELDERS (5)
21 Fowler, Dexter……………………OF
19 Grossman, Robbie………………OF
28 Hoes, L.J…………………………….OF
18 Krauss, Marc…………………. IF/OF
8 Presley, Alex………………………OF
*- on disabled list

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