By no means a finished product, the 2019 Astros are rounding into form with the March 28th season opener quickly approaching. Houston swept a home-and-home series with the Miami Marlins, 11-5 and 4-1. They then split a home-and-home with the St. Louis Cardinals, losing 6-3 before taking a 9-3 victory on Saturday. Their overall record this spring is now 8-6-2.
No manna from Heaven for DK
(c) Getty Images
On Wednesday, Brad Peacock made his first start and tossed three shutout innings at the Marlins. The fish pecked away to a 4-1 lead halfway through but the Astros exploded for seven runs in the fifth to take the lead and never looked back. Catchers Robinson Chirinos and Garrett Stubbs homered in the victory while A.J. Reed drove in three.
The next day, Justin Verlander tossed 3-1/3rd innings. He did not allow a run but was attacked for five hits and two walks. Meanwhile Max Stassi had two hits to pace the offense. Do you suppose some catchers took offense to all that gossip about the Astros trying to trade for J.T. Realmuto?
Back in West Palm on Friday night, it was Gerrit Cole's turn and he delivered three innings of one-hit ball but Will Harris followed by allowing three runs. Forrest Whitley gave up a solo homer but fanned six in three innings of work. The Astros bats were held to five hits as most of the "regulars" took the game off.
Collin McHugh, still struggling with back stiffness, allowed three Redbird runs in just two innings but his mates picked him up and caged the Cards for the rest of the afternoon. The Houston offense detonated a seven-run sixth with Nick Tanielu's three-run homer the crowning blow. Josh Reddick had two of the Astros' seven hits while Jack Mayfield added a two-run blast in the ninth to put the game on ice.
Brandon Bialak, an 11th-round draft pick in 2017 from Notre Dame is quietly making a name for himself in camp. The righthander tossed three innings of one-hit ball Saturday and picked up a save in an earlier outing.
Jose Altuve has soreness in his side and has been held out of competition lately. Alex Bregman has also been a spotty participant due largely to his off-season elbow surgery. McHugh is trying to tough his way through some back soreness.
The Astros still have four unsigned free agents but news leaked out that the front office had been in contact with former ace Dallas Keuchel about potential one-year and two-year contracts. Keuchel, through his agent Scott Boras, rejected both offers. Meanwhile, catcher Martin Maldonado had rejected a two-year offer from Houston back in November. He has since fired Boras as his agent and the Astros made a deal with Chirinos instead.
Keuchel and Maldonado still haven't found a new employer, nor had Evan Gattis or Tony Sipp as of Saturday night. (UPDATE: Maldonado signed with Kansas City on Saturday for $2.5 million plus incentives).
The Astros' schedule the next four days will be alternate matches against the Washington Nationals and New York Mets. The Nats have won all three games against their bunkmates this spring. Houston is 2-1-1 against the New Yorkers. The first three matches will be in West Palm while the Wednesday contest against the Mets will be at Port St. Lucie.
- Bob Hulsey