Results tagged ‘ Bill Hall ’

Astros postgame notes from Tuesday

The Astros sure let one get away Tuesday, with second baseman Bill Hall committing a costly error with two outs in the third inning. Instead of escaping the inning, starter J.A. Happ gave up a grand slam homer to Jerry Sands that gave the Dodgers a 5-0 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

The Dodgers sent down the final 12 batters of the game after the Astros had loaded the bases with no outs in the sixth to win, 5-4.

“It’s always unfortunate when the next guy comes up and hits the grand slam after you make an error,” Hallsaid. “[Happ] knows I’m out there playing my heart out, and I know he’s out there pitching his heart out. But sometimes the other team gets the best of you, and they got the best of us today.”

Here are some postgame notes:

  • The Astros have had 11 of their last 13 games decided by three runs or less, and nine games in that span decided by two runs or less.
  • LHP J.A. Happ suffered a tough-luck loss despite lowering his ERA to 4.99 to 5.30. He gave up only three hits and one earned run in five innings, but a grand slam homer accounted for four unearned runs.
  • Happ has allowed three earned runs or less in five of his last six starts, posting a 3.67 ERA in that span, which covers 34 1/3 innings.
  • The Astros’ bullpen threw four scoreless innings in relief of Happ. Since blowing a save in Atlanta on May 17, the bullpen has combined to throw 19 innings, allowing earned run in that span.
  • RF Hunter Pence had two doubles, giving him six straight multi-hit games and seven of his last eight. He is the 19th player in franchise history to have multiple hits in at least six straight games (Brett Wallace did it earlier this season).
  • 1B Carlos Lee went 1-for-3 with two RBIs. In 18 games in May, he’s hitting .314 with two homer sand 10 RBIs. He hit .194 in April.

Keppinger’s return creates roster decisions

Jeff Keppinger, who was the Astros’ most consistent hitter last year and led them in doubles, is expected to make his 2011 debut by the end of the month, which begs the question: What will the Astros do when Keppinger returns?

It’s no secret Bill Hall has struggled, so perhaps they slid Hall back into a utility role and give Keppinger consistent at-batsat second base. Perhaps they part ways with Hall, even though that would cost them a few million dollars. But there’s no doubt Keppinger’s ability to put the ball in play is something the Astros can certainly use.

Astros outfielder Jason Michaels will be activated from the disabled list Friday, and infielder Joe Inglett will be the odd man out. That sets the stage for the next roster move upon Keppinger’s return.

Keppinger will begin a Minor League rehab assignment Thursday night for Double-A Corpus Christi, which plays in Frisco, Texas. Keppinger will play nine innings at second base Thursday and Saturday and serve as designated hitter Friday and Sunday before moving to Triple-A Oklahoma City.

“Once I get there it’s going to be based on how I’m feeling,” said Keppinger, who underwent surgery Jan. 14 to remove the sesamoid bone from his foot.  “I’m excited to be able to get out of here and play some competitive ball. My foot’s been feeling pretty good for a week and a half now, two weeks. It’s not like it was bad before, but it just ached a little bit when I did a lot of work.”

Keppinger, who hit .288 with a team-high 34 doubles and drove in 59 runs in 137 games last year, has been playing extensively in extended spring in recent days and then doing sprints and leg lifts to build up his strength. He’s had about 40 at-bats and is eager to see better pitching.

“Once you get out of there, you can actually start feeling the excitement of getting back,” he said.

Of course, Keppinger has been following the Astros during the first six weeks of the season, while talking to teammates like Jason Michaels, Chris Johnson and Bud Norris.

“I had one of the trainers down here post a boxscore every day when I come in,” he said. “I don’t have a computer – my wife took it home a week and a half ago – but I would get on the computer when they were playing. I’m ready to get back.”

Hall hoping adjustments pay off

Bill Hall struck out all three times he came to the plate Sunday, which certainly didn’t put him in select company considering how well Brewers starter Randy Wolf pitched against the Astros. Hall, Hunter Pence, Carlos Lee, Jason Michaels and Chris Johnson combined to go 0-for-17 in the third through seventh spots in the order.

Hall has swung the bat batter in recent days, going 1-for-3 in Friday’s series opener and 3-for-4 in Saturday’s game. He’s hitting .225 (16-for-71) with one homer and seven RBIs. He also has more strikeouts (26) than he does total bases (25).

“I felt like I swung the bat well for the most part,” Hall said of his weekend series against the Brewers. “I’m looking to carry this forward. I made some mechanical changes to my swing and kind of figured out why I was in between on a lot of pitches, fouling balls off. I know what I was doing wrong, and if I keep the same swing path for the rest of the year I’m going to be right where I need to be.”

Hall wasn’t getting his hands in position early enough, which was causing him to hit foul balls and not be able to stay on top of the ball.

“I couldn’t keep the barrel of my bat up,” he said. “I made a correction on the day after I hurt my ankle [Wednesday in New York]. In BP, I kind of figured it out. In New York, I had a really good BP, and hitters know their swing path and I kept working on it and was putting the barrel of the bat on the ball.”

Third baseman Chris Johnson, who’s hitting .181, has 20 strikeouts in 72 at-bats and 20 total bases.

Hall returns to lineup against Brewers

The Astros (7-12) open a stretch of 18 consecutive games against National League Central opponents when they face the Brewers tonight at Miller Park. It’s raining and 39 degrees in Milwaukee today, but the roof will be closed so thankfully there will be no delays.

The Astros went 45-33 against the NL Central last year, winning the season series from every team in the division except the Reds (5-10). They were 8-7 against the Brewers, including 3-6 at Miller Park.

Nelson Figueroa (0-2) will be trying to win his first game, facing right-hander Yovani Gallardo (1-1), who’s 7-2 with a 3.05 ERA in nine career starts against Houston. He has won each of his last four starts against the Astros, posting a 3.91 ERA.

Bill Hall, who was drafted by the Brewers and played for them from 2002-09, returns to Miller Park and will be in the starting lineup. Hall was out of lineup Thursday after spraining his ankle in New York.

Here are the lineups:

ASTROS

CF Michael Bourn — Hitting .345 with seven walks in his last 15 games.

SS Angel Sanchez — Has started every game at shortstop this year.

RF Hunter Pence — Leads the club in homers and RBIs.

LF Carlos Lee — Has gone 0-for-9 since snapping a season-long six-game hit streak.

1B Brett Wallace — Hit .417 in the three-game series against Mets.

3B Chris Johnson — Hitting .300 with three RBIs in last five games.

2B Bill Hall — Makes his first start since Wednesday, when he injured ankle.

C Humberto Quintero — Is in an 0-for-10 slump.

RHP Nelson Figueroa — Is 3-2 with a 4.19 ERA in 12 career games against Brewers (four starts).

BREWERS

2B Rickie Weeks

CF Carlos Gomez

LF Ryan Braun

1B Prince Fielder

3B Casey McGehee

RF Mark Kotsay

SS Yuniesky Betancourt

C Jonathan Lucroy

RHP Yovani Gallardo

Astros lineup Saturday vs. Padres

Here is the Astros’ lineup for Saturday’s game against the Padres, and not surprisingly Matt Downs is in the lineup at second base over the struggling Bill Hall. Here is the complete lineup:

CF Michael Bourn

SS Angel Sanchez

RF Hunter Pence

LF Carlos Lee

1B Brett Wallace

3B Chris Johnson

2B Matt Downs

C J.R. Towles

RHP Nelson Figueroa

Postgame notes from Monday’s loss to Cubs

The Astros teased their fans on Monday night and nearly pulled off what would have been a terrific comeback. The Astros were trailing 5-1 in the seventh when they rallied for three runs off Cubs starter Ryan Dempster, getting a pinch-hit solo home run from Hall and a two-run homer by Angel Sanchez – the first of his career – to cut the lead to 5-4.

Then the frustration kicked in. The Astros were 3-for-12 with runners in scoring position, including 2-for-7 in the final three innings, and stranded a total of 12 runners.

“It’s tough when you have the record we have to take away moral victories,” Hall said. “Moral victories won’t get you in the playoffs, but at the same time we’ve got to take this momentum we did gain tonight and take it into [Tuesday].”

Here are some postgame tidbits:

  • Houston has recorded double-digit hits in each of the last four games and is hitting .324 in that span.
  • Astros starting pitchers posted a 1-1 record and a 3.77 ERA through their second turn in the rotation. In the first turn, Astros starters combined for an 0-4 record and a 9.62 ERA.
  • Houston’s bullpen combined for five scoreless, hitless innings and has not allowed a run since Saturday, a span 6 2/3 innings.
  • SS Angel Sanchez hit his first career Major League home run in his 317th career at-bat in the seventh inning. The game marked Sanchez’s second multi-RBI game of 2011 (April 5 at Cincinnati).
  • Matt Downs, who recorded a RBI-pinch-hit single in the fifth, is 3-for-7 with three RBIs in his last three games.
  • Bill Hall hit his sixth career pinch-home run in the sixth inning with he clanked one of the right-field foul pole. It is his first pinch-hit homer since May 14, 2010 at Detroit, and the first by an Astros player since Jason Michaels on Aug. 1, 2010 against the Brewers.
  • Bill Hall has an extra-base hit in each of his last three games (double, triple and homer).
  • CF Michael Bourn and Bill Hall each extended their hitting streaks to a team-leading six  games. During their streak, Bourn is hitting .320 (8-for-25) and Hall is hitting .368 (7-for19).
  • RHP Mark Melancon tossed one scoreless inning and has not allowed a run in his six appearances this season, covering five innings.
  • Monday’s s attendance of 20,175 is the second-smallest crowd in Minute Maid Park history, trailing a crowd of 18,594 on April 8, 2003 against the Reds.
  • All fans with a valid ticket to tonight’s game will receive a free sandwich at Chick-fil-A on Tuesday courtesy of Bill Hall’s seventh-inning home run, which hit the right -field foul pole.

Bill Hall brings an edge to the Astros

Bill Hall is hitting .188 with no homers and 12 strikeouts in 32 at-bats so far this season for the Astros, but you should feel fortunate to have him around. Sure, Hall is going to have his share of swings and misses at the plate and is going to be streaky on offense, but his presence is about more than stats.

What Hall has brought to the Astros is an edge. We saw Friday night when he slid aggressively – and maybe a little late – into Florida Marlins All-Star shortstop Hanley Ramirez that he plays the game hard, and he makes no apologies for that. He took offense to being hit by a pitch in Spring Training by Philadelphia’s Cole Hamels and said afterwards that Hamels “was a marked man,” and he didn’t mince words following Sunday’s game either.

Hall was hit by a pitch by Marlins reliever Edward Mujica in the seventh inning in apparent retaliation for the slide into Ramirez. Personally, I couldn’t wait to get to the clubhouse to hear what Hall had to say. He didn’t go as far as saying Mujica was a marked man, but he didn’t back down.

“I’m going to continue to play the game hard,” he said. “If I have to go in and break up another double play, no matter what team you’re playing or if you’re playing them again, I’m going to go in the same way. You’ve got to play the game hard. That’s what it’s all about.

“I’m not upset I went in there hard. I’m going to do it again. If they felt the need to retaliate or get even, that’s on them. At the same time I’m going to play the game hard and I feel like there’s 24 other guys in this room and a manager and coaches that have my back. We’re going to play the game and hard and not be pushed over by anybody.”

Every team needs a little attitude, a little edginess. Brett Myers brought that last year when he signed with the Astros, and Hall is cut from the same cloth. With so many young players on the team, having Myers and Hall setting examples isn’t a bad thing for the future. And they add a little spice for those that are covering the club, which makes them favorites in my book.

No hard feelings over play at second

Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez said Saturday he doesn’t hold anything against Astros second baseman Bill Hall for his hard slide in Friday’s game, a slide that forced Ramirez to leave the game with a bruised shin. He wasn’t in the lineup Saturday, but is listed as day-to-day.

In case you missed it, Hall slid across second base and topped Ramirez while trying to break up a double play in the seventh inning Saturday. Hall was briefly shaken up, but Ramirez had to be helped off the field.

Ramirez hasn’t seen a replay of the seventh-inning play and doesn’t plan to.  The three-time All-Star believed it was a clean play and said he’s not upset with Hall and holds no ill will towards Hall.

“He got me pretty good, but he was just trying to do his job,” said Ramirez. “He was trying to break up a double play. You’re supposed to play the game hard and that’s the way he plays.”

Hall was glad Ramirez wasn’t seriously hurt.

“Obviously, you have to play this game hard,” Hall said. “I didn’t go in with ill intent. I’m an infielder myself, so I know what it feels like to be in those helpless positions. When you’re on the other side, you’ve still got to play the game hard. You’re risking injury yourself not playing the game hard.

“I’m going in hard, but his spin set left him out there. I’ve been in those positions myself and hopefully he’s not hurt too bad. Like I said, just got my ankle a little bit and I’ll be fine. It’s one of those things, you play the game hard and things like that happen.”

Hall said Ramirez started to scream as soon as the two collided.

“I knew it had a possibility of being bad,” he said. “I try to take guys out the right way – go shin on shin. I went shin on shin and unfortunately for him the throw was slow enough and with a guy on second I had a good enough lead that I could get in there fast. It was just one of those unfortunate plays. Hopefully he’s OK and get back in there tomorrow or the next day.”

Game 24: Bud bests the Cardinals once again

The Astros beat the split-squad Cardinals, 3-2, on a hot Saturday at Osceola County Stadium, taking their Grapefruit League winning streak to four games. Bud Norris looked extremely sharp against the Cardinals — what else is new? — and the Astros made the most of their seven hits.

Here is the rundown:

What went right: Let’s start with Norris, who had his best spring outing of the year. He pitched five scoreless innings, allowing six singles, no walks and striking out five batters. Norris threw 79 pitches, including 54 strikes.

“Spring’s been ideally getting in your work and the numbers haven’t really been there, but I felt good today and everything was there,” Norris said. “I really mixed pitches well. I was really happy with the seven ground balls and no walks. That was the key for me today, pounding it down in the strike zone.”

Jeff Fulchino and Mark Melancon each threw a scoreless inning in relief, with Melancon lowering his spring ERA to 1.50.

At the plate, the Astros spread seven hits around with Jason Bougeois (.341 spring average), Clint Barmes (.239), Brett Wallace (.362), Matt Downs (.290), Carlos Corporan (.421), J.R. Towles (.379) and Tommy Manzella (.333) each getting one hit. Manzella, Wallace and Corporan had doubles.

Barmes made one of the best defensive plays you’ll ever see at shortstop in the second inning when he went deep into the hole between second and shortstop and threw out Mark Hamilton at first base by a hair. Bourgeois nearly upstaged him in the seventh with a terrific diving catch in center field. Bourgeois then rose to his feet and threw out the runner at first for a great double play. He’s hitting .341 and is making a strong case to make the club as the fifth outfielder.

What went wrong: Not much. There were a few 0-fers: Carlos Lee, Chris Johnson and Jason Michaels were each 0-for-3, though Lee drove in a run. Bill Hall was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. Brandon Lyon and Casey Fien each allowed two hits and one run in two innings of work.

What they said: “He did have some good results. The thing about Bud is he was really able to make some pitches with both his slider and his fastball and moving his fastball around the zone. He’d get behind a few hitters and he’d come back and when he needed to make a pitch he was able to do it with his fastball and his slider, and he threw some real nice changeups. That was pretty special as well.” – manager Brad Mills on Bud Norris’ strong outing Saturday.

What’s next: All five candidates for the fifth spot in the rotation will be in action Sunday when the Astros play their sixth and final split-squad games of the season. Ryan Rowland-Smith will start in Kissimmee against the Pirates, with Jordan Lyles following him. Lance Pendleton is also scheduled to pitch in that game. Nelson Figueroa will get the start in Lake Buena Vista against the Braves, with Aneury Rodriguez to follow him.

Injury update: Left-hander Wandy Rodriguez, whose previous scheduled start last Tuesday was scratched because of a mild tendinitis in his right shoulder, will throw in the bullpen Sunday and is scheduled to return to the mound Tuesday against Washington in Viera. … Infielder Angel Sanchez (back) fielded ground balls Saturday and said his back feels fine. He will try to take batting practice Sunday. … Center fielder Michael Bourn will return to the lineup Sunday after being held out Saturday as a precaution. “He was under the weather a little bit but he played in the heat and I don’t want to get him run down and so tired he has a setback and get really sick,” manager Brad Mills said.

 Here are the photos:

Spring 0319 001.jpg

Above: Some Astros Minor Leaguers watch drills on one of the back fields.

Spring 0319 002.jpg

Above: Astros ace Brett Myers fires a pitch in the bullpen, with pitching coach Brad Arnsberg catching him.

Spring 0319 004.jpg

Above: Catcher Brian Esposito chases a ball during drills on Saturday morning.

Spring 0319 008.jpg

Above: Matt Downs makes solid contact in batting practice on Saturday.

Spring 0319 009.jpg

Above: Hunter Pence and Jose Cruz sign autographs.

Spring 0319 013.jpg

Above: Lance Berkman, making his return to Osceola County Stadium, yucks it up while he stretches with the Cardinals.

Taking a shot at the Astros 25-man roster

We are roughly halfway through Spring Training and the roster picture is pretty much as cloudy as it was when camp opened a month ago, and perhaps even more so with the injury to catcher Jason Castro. With so many bodies still in camp, it’s been difficult to determine which players might have the leg up, but that will not deter me.

Here’s my guess on what the Opening Day roster will look like:

CATCHERS (2)

Humberto Quintero

J.R. Towles

Comment: The Astros could still bring in another catcher in time for Opening Day, but for now I’m going to limit my prediction to the players that are still in camp.

INFIELDERS (6)

Brett Wallace (L)

Bill Hall

Clint Barmes

Chris Johnson

Matt Downs

Tommy Manzella

Comment: I still believe Wallace is going to win the first base job. Downs has looked good in camp and could bring some pop and versatility off the bench. Manzella has broadened his defensive scope and has looked good at the plate so far this spring. Angel Sanchez could still play his way into the mix, but his defense is an issue. Anderson Hernandez has played well, too.

OUTFIELDERS (5)

Carlos Lee

Michael Bourn (L)

Hunter Pence

Jason Michaels

Brian Bogusevic (L)

Comment: The only spot up for grabs is the fifth outfield spot. Bogusevic probably has a leg up on Jason Bourgeois because he hits left-handed. He runs pretty well too, but not as well as Bourgeois, who could also play second base.

STARTING PITCHERS (5)

Brett Myers

Wandy Rodriguez (L)

J.A. Happ (L)

Bud Norris

Ryan Rowland-Smith (L)

Comment: The fifth spot in the rotation remains completely up for grabs. Right now, I go with Rowland-Smith over Jordan Lyles, who has looked good but is still 20 years old and has barely had his feet wet at Triple-A. Nelson Figueroa makes the club as the long reliever.

RELIEF PITCHERS (7)

Brandon Lyon

Wilton Lopez

Fernando Abad (L)

Jeff Fulchino

Nelson Figueroa

Mark Melancon

Henry Villar

Comment: At this point, I see Lyon, Lopez, Abad and Figueroa as locks. Fulchino is healthy and pitching well, and Melancon appears to have a good chance. The last spot? Completely up for grabs. The injury to Alberto Arias may give some other guys a chance, and Villar as pitched well. Don’t count out Sergio Escalona or Enerio Del Rosario.

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