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Astros 9, Braves 5: The Beard Is Back

Keuchelangelo is back, bearded, and berating batters belligerently.

Keuchelangelo paints again.
Keuchelangelo paints again.
Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Ok, I'm sorry for the alliteration.  I couldn't help myself.

On to business.

Dallas "Keuchelangelo" Keuchel, who's been held back a bit so far this spring due to concerns over his 2015 workload, made his Grapefruit League debut this afternoon and pitched two scoreless innings, allowing one hit, one walk, and recording one out via punch out.  Of the remaining five outs he recorded, four of them were on the ground.

On the offensive side of the ball,  Jose Altuve entered the game hitting under .150 for the spring.  He ripped a double to left field to lead off the bottom of the first, moved to third on on a sac fly from George Springer, and then scored on another sac fly from Carlos Correa.  Just like that, the Astros were on the board.

In the second inning, Jason Castro lifted a fly ball to left field, and strong wind carried it all the way out of the park for his first home run of the spring and put the Astros up 2-0 early.

Former Astro Michael Bourn ripped a one out single to right field off new Astros lefty reliever Neal Cotts and advanced to second on a slow-rolling fielder's choice to Marwin Gonzalez at third before Freddie Freeman logged on with an opposite field home run to tie the ballgame.

Carlos Gomez led off the bottom of the fourth inning with a double, his first hit of the spring, and Tyler White followed with a laser beam to left field that he hustled - in eyebrow-raising fashion, as he's not known as much of a runner - into a double of his own to give the Astros the lead for the last time.  Marwin Gonzalez walked, then Jose Altuve followed a Jake Marisnick strike out with an "excuse me" accidental double down the right field line that drove in both White and Gonzalez.

After that drove the score to 5-2 in favor of the Astros, the wheels began to fall off for the Braves.  George Springer reached on an ugly throwing error by Braves shortstop Ozzie Albies, allowing pinch-runner Nolan Fontana to score.  Carlos Correa then blasted a ground rule double to center to put runners on second and third.  Luis Valbuena walked to load the bases, and then Eury Perez - who had entered the game earlier in the inning to pinch run for Carlos Gomez after he led the inning off with a single - walked to bring in the seventh run of the game.  After that, Max Stassi came to the plate and continued to look lost with the bat in his hand, and the Braves were (mercifully) spared any further damage.

Marwin Gonzalez added his second home run of the spring - a solo shot, what else? - in the bottom of the fifth inning to push the score to 8-2 Astros.

After that, Dan Straily entered the game and frankly looked incredibly hittable, just as he did in his last appearance.  The first hitter he faced - Adonis Garcia - lined out (solid contact) to right field.  Kelly Johnson walked, Hector Olivera singled, and Willians Astudillo doubled in a run before Straily got Jace Peterson to hit into an RBI fielder's choice and Mallex Smith to strike out.  All told, it was a pretty bad inning for Straily, who is out of options and appears likely to be headed to the waiver wire and bound to either be claimed by another team or perhaps pass through waivers and off the 40 man roster.  Straily would allow one more run the next inning on a Nate Freiman solo home run to left field, and his final stat line was two innings pitched, three hits, three earned runs, a walk, and three strikeouts.  More than the results, and even more than his command, the problem has appeared to be that his stuff just isn't there.  The ball looks like a beach ball leaving his hand.

One particularly interesting feature of this game was that it was the very first time that Dansby Swanson (2015 Number One Overall Draft Pick) and Alex Bregman (2015 Number Two Overall Draft Pick) have ever faced each other in a Major League (...ish) game.  Neither acquitted himself particularly well offensively, as the pair combined to go 0-4 with three strikeouts, but Bregman did make a couple of decent plays in the field, while Swanson allowed Preston Tucker to reach base on a bad error.  Tucker would ultimately come around to score the ninth run on a beautiful drag bunt by Andrew Aplin.

Kevin Chapman and James Hoyt each contributed scoreless innings to close out the game.  In fact, every Astros pitcher besides Straily looked pretty good.  Neal Cotts had a bad result when Freeman took him deep for the two run home run, but otherwise didn't look bad.