I found myself switching back and forth between the Texas/Oakland game and the Astros/Marlins game, and my mangled bracket led to most interest in the Astro’s game. Granted, it is only the fourth inning, but the 8-1 lead is comforting with J.A. Happ on the mound and the heart of the Astro lineup the actual opening day starters. Here is what has me pleased thus far:Through 5 innings, Happ has surrendered 4 hits and 4 walks, but only one unearned run. His issue with generating walks has been the one weak spot in his game for the Astros in his young career thus fair, and it is hurting his pitch count the most. In his 13 starts for the Astros last season, Happ only went past the 6 inning threshold 3 times due to hitting 100+ pitches by that point in the game. This spring, Happ has kept his ERA down and been able to get out of troublesome situations when they came around (excluding his last start in which 3ER came across as a result of a rally started with a 2-out walk), but that will not always be the case. In order for him to become a great starter as opposed to an above average 2 or 3 starter, he needs to get his career 3.7 BB/game number down.
In hitting news, Wallace has continued to rip through mid March by getting away with a double, his sixth of the spring, to left field that bounced off the fielder’s glove, but would have been out of the park in Minute Maid. That double plated Bourn for his team leading 13th RBI.
Michael Bourn was able to hit a double that would lead to him being brought home by Wallace, and he has scored 2 runs on the day. Bourn is the only returning Astro starter that has been struggling this spring for the team, but today is a good sign of things to come. It was known that he was not going to be lighting up the basepath this spring to stay loose and healthy for the upcoming season, but his average was dipping below .230 for most of the spring. Bourn can slide into slumps that are brutal due to his inability to draw walks at an effective rate, so hopefully this slow spring is not a sign of things to come. He has, though, been working on his bunting abilities today which is a great way to work out of slumps and set up the middle of the lineup to do some damage. (Perhaps it was out of spite, but Bourn cranked his first triple of the spring to right field off the wall as I wrote this paragraph. Bravo, Michael)
Pence added a double on the day with an RBI as well as Chris Johnson knocking in a ribby as well. Both Johnson and Pence are batting above .340 on the spring, and have looked good while doing it with power. Pence has struck out twice today, and both were on high strikes at the chin. Hunter has improved every aspect of his game as the years go on, but the embarrassing strike outs have been a staple of his early career that I am sure he has been working to change.
March Madness may be going on, but Astro baseball is picking up. Tomorrow, the game will be broad casted on FSH at noon, so if your bracket looks like Charlie Sheen’s reputation, check out the good guys.