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The fact: Michael Wacha held the Astros to four hits and two runs in seven innings, and the Cardinals jumped on Brett Oberholtzer for four runs in the first inning and got a solo homer from Matt Adams in the third to beat the Astros, 5-2, on Saturday afternoon at Osceola County Stadium (boxscore).
What we learned: It’s late in spring, but pitchers are still ironing out the kinks. LHP Brett Oberholtzer worked his way through a stressful first inning, giving up four hits and three runs, and settled down to give the Astros five innings while throwing 87 pitches. He’ll have one more spring start before taking the ball against the Yankees on April 3.
“Obviously, the first inning the results aren’t what I’m after,” he said. “The overall body of work, I was satisfied in keeping my team in the game. [Matt] Adams hit the home run in the third and I had put up a couple of zeroes in between. Over the course of a season, that’s going to happen to us, and I’m sure it will happen to a lot of us when they jump on you early. But more [importantly] is how you handle yourself over the course of a whole game. There’s still some things I need to work on, but I was pretty satisfied with how I went along after the first.”
Player of the game: CF Dexter Fowler, celebrating his 27th birthday, went 2-for-4 with a run scored.
What went wrong: Oberholtzer struggled in the first inning, putting the Astros in a 3-0 hole they couldn’t escape. After getting the first out of the game, he allowed the next four batters to reach and three of them scored. … SS Jonathan Villar made his sixth error of the spring with an errant throw to first base in the third. … The Astros mustered only five hits, including four singles.
Notable: RHP Josh Fields didn’t allow a run for his fifth consecutive outing. He’s scoreless in his last six innings, allowing four hits in that span. … RHP Ross Seaton, a former high draft pick who was in camp with the Astros last year, worked a 1-2-3 ninth inning. … IF Marwin Gonzalez went 1-for-3 and actually lowered his average to .436.
Quotable: “I’m the fourth hitter, that’s what I’m supposed to do,” — Astros second baseman Jose Altuve on hitting a homer out of the cleanup spot.
Up next: The race for the final two spots in the pitching rotation takes center stage Sunday in Jupiter, Fla., when Jerome Williams gets the start for the Astros against the Cardinals at 12:05 p.m. CT. Williams is battling with Dallas Keuchel, Lucas Harrell and Brad Peacock for the final slots, though either of them could wind up being in the bullpen, as well.
Injuries: RHP Asher Wojciechowski (lat strain), RHP Jesse Crain (biceps tendon surgery recovery), RHP Alex White (Tommy John recovery) and RHP Peter Moylan (torn UCL).
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— L.J. Hoes (@MRLJHOES2U) March 22, 2014
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