Jose Altuve Gets Things Started and Carlos Pena Shows Some Power


On a day when the 5th starter picture got a little clearer, Alex White did not do much to stand out in the competition.  White pitched 4.1 innings in the Houston’s 7-5 loss to the Mets tonight.  He was lucky to limit the damage to only 3 runs as he was helped by a double play in each of the first two innings.  But it could have been a lot worse as he saw his ERA climb to 6.75.

Jose Altuve

(Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports)

This was White’s second spring start against the Mets, and this one did not go much better than the first.  White gave up 7 hits, walked 1, and only struck out 3.  The big blow was a 2-run HR by Mets outfield hopeful Colin Cowgill, but he was not actually the pitcher who fared the worst for Houston.

Kevin Chapman who despite the fact that he is still in the major league camp seems ticketed for AAA to start the season, allowed 4 runs on 5 hits in only .2 innings.  But all was not lost tonight for the Houston pitching staff.

Two likely members of the Opening Day bullpen, Josh Fields and Wesley Wright, shut down the Mets.  Wright came on in the 5th to relieve White and promptly retired the next two hitters.  Fields then pitched a scoreless 6th inning only giving up walk.

Now that Jose Altuve has been officially named the leadoff hitter, he certainly performed like one tonight.  This is not to say that Altuve has not been performing well this spring (his average is .362) but he got things started in a 2 run first inning for the Astros with a bunt single.  The second baseman then scored on Carlos Pena‘s home run (his fourth of spring) and also drove in J.D. Martinez with a sacrifice fly in the 2nd inning.

Pena also was not done after his home run as he drove in Brett Wallace with a single in a three run 2nd inning.  But beyond his offense, the first basemen also made an impact with his glove tonight.  He did a nice job of getting to a ball hit by Lucas Duda in the second inning which ultimately helped to limit the damage White incurred.

It was interesting to see Wallace batting second tonight as that spot is now available.  Wallace drove in Tyler Greene prior to being driven in by Pena.  With Altuve leading off, I think Wallace could be a good number two hitter.  He makes contact, hits line drives, and should strike out less than a lot of other options the Astros have.

In the outfield battle Chris Carter struck out another two times tonight, while also walking twice and is hitting .255 on the spring.  Martinez went 2-4 and raised his average to .262.  Brandon Barnes went 1-2 on the night and is now hitting .344.  This is certainly a battle that will go down to the wire.

It will be a good test for the Astros tomorrow night as they face the Tigers and their ace Justin Verlander.