The Astros used a big 3rd inning today to wipe out the Miami Marlins 7 -4. It seems the hometown nine are finding their offensive game, although it can be very difficult during the spring with so many different lineups. J.D. Martinez just keeps on hitting and is making a lot of people wonder why he lasted until the 20th rd of the mlb draft a few years back. While his two hits and three RBIs would normally classify him as the star of the afternoon, the story of this ballgame was Brett Wallace. All it took was one swing off a lefthanded pitcher to inspire a fanbase once again. Wallace hit his first homerun of the spring off lefthander Wade LeBlanc, the fact it was a homerun, off a lefty and to deep right center would make any Astros’ fan smile. It was something the organization had hoped would happen sooner but as long as it happens more often, everyone will be happy. Kyle Weiland has opened many eyes during the spring and all but locked down the 5th spot in the rotation but struggled a bit today with mechanics and control. The young pitcher went through his first adversity of the spring and looked okay but it did keep the door slightly cracked open for Jordan Lyles and Zach Duke. Astros are now 9-7 during the spring.
Wallace’s power has been such a hot button topic that every time Brett goes deep, it creates hope that maybe he is finally “getting it.” That has yet to happen but with Jeff Luhnow, the man who drafted Wallace, arriving in Houston this winter, a certain belief developed that if Wallace was to live up to his potential, it would happen now. We’ve been waiting to see if any instruction he received over the winter had kicked in and while it certainly seems that Wallace feels pretty good at the plate, his homerun power was still missing. Now the task is for Brett to continue to do what he did today, we don’t expect 40 homeruns anymore but if he could hit 20-25 with his approach at the plate, it would make a lot of people within the organization and fanbase very happy. While Wallace is a work in progress, J.D. Martinez seems ready to blossom. After another good day today the second year player keeps increasing fan expectations. I’m at the point where I’m not sure if I should change my expectations of the kid for the better but being such a young player, that’s dangerous. Chris Johnson added two more hits today and is quietly taking charge in the competition for the 3rd base job. Maybe with lower expectations this season, Johnson will revert back to the second half of 2010.
The pitching staff had a pretty quiet day, Weiland’s struggles being the biggest note to come out of this ballgame. Weiland has looked great but its expected he’d take a step back here or there. Even in his struggles today he showed good composure and worked out of what could have been huge innings in the 1st and 3rd. His pitch count would catch up to him otherwise, he probably goes on to pitch another inning or two. Rhiner Cruz had his best outing of the spring throwing one hitless inning but is it too late for the Rule 5 hopeful? The bullpen competition is pretty intense and Cruz has been less than impressive. I don’t see how the Astros could justify keeping him on the roster ahead of some of their other arms. Tomorrow the Astros take on the Cardinals before a rare day off, I’d assume we see J.A. Happ going against some old friends.