2014 Grapefruit League record: 1-0
Well, the wait is finally over. At long last, a beacon of hope shining in the throes of Old Man Winter. Baseball season is upon us. The Houston Astros opened up Grapefruit League play at Disney World and topped those darn Braves in a pretty fun affair, which took a brisk 3:39 to play.
W- Matt Albers (1-0)
L- Jordan Walden (0-1)
S- Chia-Jen Lo (1)
Home runs: None for Houston.
Starting Pitcher: Lucas Harrell
Lucas Harrell got the nod for this first game of spring training as he is looking to put the debacle that was his 2013 season far, far behind him. He pitched the first 2 innings and allowed a run on a bases-loaded walk in the 1st. 3 of his 4 walks came in that 1st inning. Harrell's 2nd was much more quiet, as he induced 2 groundouts and a foulball out after a leadoff walk. His one strikeout was in the form of Chris Johnson in the 1st.
Final line: 2 IP, H, ER, 4 BB, K, 3 groundouts, 0 flyouts
Peter Moylan was the first man out of the bullpen for Houston. He allowed a hit and issued a walk in a scoreless 3rd inning.
Matt Albers began his 2nd tour of duty with the Astros by coming out for the 4th. He allowed a run on a Freddie Freeman single, but at the same time got out of the inning as Brett Wallace and Matt Dominguez threw out Joey Terdoslavich to end the threat. Albers was shaken up a little bit on the play but left under his own power.
The next man up was Paul Clemens, and he allowed 2 runs on 5 hits (all but one was a single), walked 1, struck out 1, uncorked a wild pitch, and was called for a balk in his 2 innings of work. He bowed out by inducing a rather slick 4-6-3 double play from Tyler Greene to end the 6th inning, which got him out of a bases-loaded situation.
Darin Downs made his Astros debut, walking 1 in a scoreless 7th inning.
Rudy Owens, fresh off a stellar winter campaign in the Dominican Republic, pitched the 8th. He shook off a solo homer from Todd Cunningham to retire the side and preserved a 6-5 lead.
Chia-Jen Lo shut the door in the 9th in impressive fashion, finishing off with 2 strikeouts after getting Greene to fly out to lead off the inning. This was the first 1-2-3 inning from an Astros pitcher in the spring.
The Astros scored a touchdown with 2 runs in 3 different innings and tacked on the extra point in the 9th inning.
In his first plate appearance as a member of the Houston Astros, Dexter Fowler flied out to center. He would give the Astros the lead with a 2-run single in the top of the 2nd. Fowler also drew a walk in the 5th before giving way to Delino DeShields. This substitution turned out to be a turning point in the game.
DeShields wasted no time in leaving his mark on the game as he stole 2nd on the first pitch to Jose Altuve and advanced to 3rd when Altuve grounded out. He eventually scored on a double from Marc Krauss, who then made way for George Springer. Springer didn't hesitate to get in on the action as he stole 3rd and scored on a double from Chris Carter. Preston Tucker then emerged to pinch-run for Carter. The Astros would not relinquish the lead again after their half of the 5th.
The bench was emptied in the bottom of the 5th inning, and the prospects got their chance to show a little something. From that point on, DeShields was in center field, Springer was in right, and Tucker DH'd for the rest of the game. In addition, Max Stassi, J.D. Martinez, Jonathan Meyer, Jonathan Singleton, Marwin Gonzalez, and Carlos Correa were subbed in.
Correa singled to kick off the 6th, advanced to 3rd on a Stassi double, and scored on a DeShields groundout. Marwin then sent a double down the left-field line to score Stassi. In the 9th, Springer drew a 1-out walk, swiped his 2nd bag of the night, and scored on a Tucker single to give the Astros that vital insurance run.
Marc Krauss went 2-3 and was the only Astro with a multi-hit night. George Springer notched his first 2 steals and scored his first 2 runs of this calendar year.
Dustin's Random Observations
Normally I would be freaking out over the pitchers issuing 9 walks, but... this is the 1st spring training game. It's way too early for me to be pulling my hair out over that.
The bullpen competition will be incredibly stiff and probably won't be settled until the very end. Lo delivered a very strong opening argument for his case, and I (am getting ahead of myself) would not be surprised if he gets a few chances to close games during the course of the regular season.
I forgot who was on the mound at the time, but this was how Steve Sparks described his breaking ball.
"A late-breaking, slurvy type of slurve" - Steve Sparks
— Dustin Nguyen (@itsDTrain) March 1, 2014
Carlos Correa seems like he's simply unfazed. He's not even 20 yet but he carries himself with the poise of a 10+ year MLB veteran. Selfishly, I'm hoping he earns a spot on the Corpus roster for Opening Day.
Josh Fields was scheduled to appear in this game, but Paul Clemens wound up pitching 2 innings.
THREE STARS OF THE GAME
Dexter Fowler, CF
1-2, 2 RBI, BB
Marc Krauss, RF
2-3, 2B, RBI
Chia-Jen Lo, RHP
Save (1), IP, 2 K
The Astros will make the journey to Lakeland, where they will take on the Tigers and old friend Brad Ausmus at 1:05 Eastern. Scott Feldman will make his Astros debut, and he will be opposed by Drew VerHagen.