Lucas Harrell (Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports)
It was all about the starting battery tonight as the Houston Astros defeated the Washington Nationals 7-4 in Spring Training action. Coming into this spring that was not a sentence I thought I would be writing since Lucas Harrell was the starting pitcher.
After the first batter of the game, things were not looking good for the Astros. Gio Gonzalez struck out the side in the top of the first inning and then Harrell allowed a lead off double to Denard Span. Granted it was more of a ground ball that found empty space past the drawn in Matt Dominguez, but if this was last year, things would have gone downhill quickly.
Instead, the right-hander kept the ball on the ground to get out of the inning. Span did score after two ground outs, but the damage was limited. Harrell continued to keep the ball on the ground the rest of the night (only one fly ball out) allowing just that one run on two hits and one walk. Ryan Zimmerman had a hard hit double on a mistake that caught too much of the plate. Harrell’s ERA now stands at 3.00 for the spring.
Gonzalez continued his dominance into the second inning as he struck out five Astros in a row. The sentiment over the radio was that the strike zone was rather large and liberal. One Astro who had a problem with it was Dexter Fowler who struck out in both of his bats to bring his average down to .188.
George Springer got to play in the whole game getting five at bats in his quest to win a job with the Astros. Batting sixth, Springer reached on an infield single, stole his fourth base of the spring, and then scored on Carlos Corporan‘s home run. Springer’s average for the spring is now just .111. Corporan on the other hand went 2-3 and is now hitting .455.
The rest of the Astros’ scoring came in the sixth inning as they put up five runs. L.J. Hoes who is part of the outfield competition singled in Corporan before Jonathan Villar cleared the bases with a double. Japhet Amador closed out the scoring with an RBI single as he tries to make up for his late start.
Villar, who is now hitting .294 got the start in the second spot of the order. After his first two at bats he looked like the same inconsistent player we saw at times last season. The bright spot is that he redeemed himself with the sixth inning double and also worked out a walk. Once the season starts, Jose Altuve will be back in the second spot, but that doesn’t mean the shortstop isn’t a critical part of the team.
With regards to the youth movement, Delino DeShields got two at bats replacing Fowler and was 1-2 with a strikeout and a run scored to improve his average to .059. Carlos Correa got two at bats and went hitless bringing his average down to .133.
From a pitching perspective, Mike Foltynewicz proved that he doesn’t need his hair to shut down opposing batters. Foltynewicz got two innings of work allowing two hits and a solo home run. His ERA now sits at 1.50.
Josh Zeid “scattered” four hits, but allowed just one run. Alex Sogard followed that with a perfect eighth inning striking out one batter. Josh Fields closed out the win allowing two hits and a run in the ninth inning.