Chris Carter (David Manning-USA TODAY Sports)
The Houston Astros were split up today with the biggest names staying at home to face the New York Yankees. We still have another few weeks until the Astros face the Yankees for real, so the actual result of the game is not what is important here. But for those of you that are counting, Houston lost 9-6.
Jarred Cosart and the Astros got the afternoon off to a good start, but things went downhill. Cosart walked two batters in the top of the first, but as he did last year, nothing came of the base runners as he also struck out two Yankees to get out of trouble. In the second inning, Cosart was not as lucky as he was removed after 1.2 innings after he reached his 50 pitch limit.
However it was not all Cosart’s fault. Jose Altuve made the first of Houston’s three errors on the afternoon throwing a ball into the first base stands allowing the Yankees’ first run of the game to score. Top outfield prospect Mason Williams stroked a double into the right field corner to tie the game at two.
Ultimately the book was closed on Cosart at 50 pitches, two runs (one earned), two hits, two walks, and two strikeouts. While the results were not there, this is still about the learning process for Cosart. We all know that he can throw hard, but that is part of the problem. He still needs to work on his curve ball this spring and become more reliant on his change up.
Offensively, the day got off to a good start for the Astros. In what is hopefully a sign of things to come this season, Houston jumped out to two early runs in the first inning.
Dexter Fowler and Altuve got things started with two well struck singles and were promptly driven in by a Jason Castro double. Chances at a bigger inning were snuffed out when Chris Carter was robbed of extra bases by Zoilo Almonte. Marc Krauss continued his hot spring with a solid line drive single on which Castro was only able to advance to third base.
Cesar Izturis continued in his quest to earn a utility spot by going 2-3 today with an RBI single to improve his average to .364 on the spring. Carter closed out the scoring for the Astros with a well struck three-run home run over the left field wall.
From a pitching perspective, Chad Qualls was the standout for the Astros as he pitched a perfect fifth while striking out two Yankees.
Darin Downs gave up a two run home run to Kelly Johnson, who bats from the left side, as he is working towards a job in the bullpen as a left-handed specialist. Jose Cisnero and Jake Buchanan were responsible for the remaining five runs the Astros gave up, but two of Cisnero’s three runs were unearned. Nick Tropeano closed out the pitching for Houston with a scoreless ninth inning striking out two batters.
Nolan Fontana gave the Astros a little life in the ninth inning with a well struck double off the right field wall. Nothing ultimately came of that, but it was a good sign for the infielder.
George Springer struck out swinging in both of his at bats. While he has shown patience at the plate, he also looked a little over matched with two strikes. The one problem, if I were to find a flaw with the outfielder, is that he does not shorten up his swing with two strikes. Now you don’t want him to sacrifice any power, but at the same time, there are some situations that call for simply making contact.
Carlos Correa also struck out twice, once looking, and both were on borderline calls.
From a defensive perspective, aside from Altuve’s misfire, there were two other alarming plays. Fowler made a nice play to keep a single in front of him, but then he threw the ball to no one leading to Cisnero’s unearned runs. Jonathan Villar also had a mental mistake on a pick off. Jesus Guzman threw the ball to Villar who merely took his eye off the ball and let it get under his glove and through his legs. Both were mental mistakes which need to be eliminated by April 1st.