The Houston Astros completed the first of two exhibition games in the final week of spring training against the Chicago White Sox Tuesday evening with a loss. Jordan Schafer made his return to action after having sprained his hand earlier this spring and answered with an infield single in his first plate appearance against live pitching in over two weeks. As for Jed Lowrie, the decision to put him on the DL won't be made until perhaps on Friday as management does not want to lose Lowrie unless it is deemed he is not fit for action by opening day.
Among the talents showcased this game, Jose Altuve stole the show by showing a much more patient hitter than he showed last year, drawing a walk and working the count in several of his plate appearances. The biggest improvement he has shown this spring training is his ability to change his habits at the plate. With 10 walks this spring, 2 times the amount he had during his two months in the majors last year, I believe Altuve has turned the other cheek. With more patience as a hitter, he can become a viable asset to the Astros for years to come.
The Good: There was not a whole lot of going on with the offense this game with the only run being driven in by Carlos Lee in the first inning. Jose Altuve looked fantastic in his two plate appearances of the game, earning him offensive player of the game honors, drawing a walk on a full count in the first while working a full count again in the 5th inning showing remarkable patience. He did strike out swinging in his second PA of the game, but the large improvement of his plate discipline should bode well for this upcoming season. He also registered a single in the 8th inning.
Jonathan Singleton hit an infield single in the 9th. Former first-baseman Brett Wallace followed behind with a walk.
The Bad: Chris Johnson in his first two plate appearances struck out wildly on what appeared to be two sliders out of the zone. Carlos Lee got caught stealing off of left-handed Chris Sale, although I will give him an E for effort due to the fact that the tag was a close call.
There was't a player in the starting lineup who didn't strike out at least once except for Carlos Lee and Justin Ruggiano, with the lineup in total striking out 10 times against White Sox pitching. The Astros were unable to sustain any kind of rally throughout the whole game with the biggest blow coming in the bottom of the 9th inning with the bases loaded when Travis buck lined back to the pitcher who threw to first to get Wallace doubled off. After the 1st inning the Astros did not register a hit until an Altuve single in the 8th inning. All of the Astros' hits were singles.
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Bud Chuck did okay in his 3 innings of work, giving up two runs on 5 hits, one walk, while striking out 4. His control was sometimes lacking, but didn't pitch too terribly, showcasing his exceptional slider and his fastball, which sat around 90-91 mph.
Rhiner Cruz came into the game following Bud Norris, pitching a scoreless 4th inning. He did not have high-octane stuff, but did showcase his 3/4 arm slot with his beautiful tailing fastball. His velocity reached a max of 95 mph and showed good control of his pitches
David Carpenter came in during the 5th inning and did not fare well, giving up 2 runs on two consecutive homeruns. Adam Dunn hit a long one to the Budweiser patio that just barely cleared the wall. Paul Konerko hit one to the boxes
Brandon Lyon and Fernando Rodriguez pitched scoreless innings. Brett Myers gave up one run in the 9th, walking one and striking out two. Astros pitching in general gave up 14 hits, 4 walks, 5 runs, and struck out 8.
The Good: Rhiner Cruz gets the honors of defensive player of the game, snagging a sharp liner in the 4th and making a quick decision by throwing quickly to Altuve at second who threw to first to get the double play.
As a defensive replacement in the 8th inning, Brett Wallace grabbed a ball that was hit right at him on a line. In the following AB, he grabbed a nice ground ball and had a good strong throw to Jonathan Singleton at first.
The Bad: Although there were no errors in the game, J.D. Martinez let a ball get past him, but quickly recovered to hold the runner at first. Other than that, defense was generally good.
The Astros will wrap up the last game of spring training vs. the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday at 1:05 p.m. CT. The game will broadcast on Radio KBME 790. Following the game tomorrow, the Astros will take an off-day and prepare for opening day festivities on Friday.