Lucas Harrell showed tonight that he has no plans to suffer from a Sophomore Slump. Harrell entered his start against the Tigers tonight having given up only one run over his last eleven innings, spanning three starts. Facing the Tigers likely opening day lineup, Harrell kept up the momentum from his strong spring.
Brad Peacock (Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports)
Pitching the first five innings for the Astros, he allowed two runs while giving up three hits, three walks, and striking out two Tigers. The main thing for Harrell was once again keeping the ball on the ground. His hard sinker was a huge plus for him throughout the outing as he had eight ground ball outs while getting off to a strong start.
Austin Jackson, Torii Hunter, and Miguel Cabrera were all retired by ground balls by Harrell in the first inning. A walk to Prince Fielder to start off the second inning led to the first run of the game for the Tigers as Fielder scored when Harrell forced Quintin Berry to hit into a double play. Berry then scored on a single by catcher Alex Avila in the fifth inning after he reached on a lead off walk.
While taking nothing away from Harrell’s performance, he did issue three lead off walks. If he does not get a handle on that heading into the season, it could cause some problems for him. But that was not the best pitching performance for the Astros tonight. Hector Ambriz lowered his ERA to 3.38 with a scoreless 6th inning while striking out one batter and allowing a walk but that was not it either. However, Ambriz has certainly helped his cause in securing a role in the Houston bullpen to start the season.
One night after Alex White did not look so sharp against the Mets, Brad Peacock made a statement in the battle for the 5th starter role. While recording a three inning save, Peacock struck out five batters while allowing two hits and keeping the Tigers off the scoreboard. That lowered Peacock’s ERA on the spring to 3.68 and he certainly looked like a viable candidate to begin the season in the rotation. Granted a lot of the Tigers big names were out of the lineup by then, but Peacock was certainly in control and dominating hitters. Not only does he throw hard, but his ball has movement and the Tigers hitters were having a hard time making contact.
And now for the redundant part of the article. Six of the seven Astros runs were driven in by four home runs. After replacing Brett Wallace in the first inning, Brandon Laird continued to make his case for a roster spot. Laird hit one of the three home runs Verlander gave up as he drove in Jose Altuve in the fourth inning with an opposite field blast that just kept on carrying.
Carlos Corporan continued his hot spring by hitting the first of his two long balls in the 5th inning (his other came in the 7th inning) which was followed by Matt Dominguez‘s first blast of the spring. Dominguez then finished up the scoring by driving in pinch runner Brandon Barnes with an RBI single in the 9th inning.
That was a run made possible by Barnes’ speed. Barnes used his speed to go first to third on Corporan’s third hit of the game, a 9th inning single, which put him in place to score on Dominguez’s single. Barnes is making it very hard for the Astros to send him down to AAA, and his speed could prove to be a valuable piece to this team.
Wallace began the game for the Astros with a one out single, but then promptly had to leave the game after injuring himself diving back to first base on a pickoff attempt. It appeared that he jammed either his neck or shoulder, but at the moment it did not appear to be serious. That allowed Laird to enter the game and continue on his torrid spring as he raised his average to .349.
Tonight the Astros faced a top team and a top starting pitcher and came out winners. It’s just a spring training game, but it was something for a young team to feel good about.