Walker hits first spring homer, but Locke struggles in outing
By Adam Berry and Paul Casella
BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Astros pounded out 13 runs on 13 hits and beat the Pirates, 13-7, on Tuesday afternoon before a crowd of 5,577 at McKechnie Field. Robbie Grossman, George Springer, Chris Carter and Jason Castro led the way atop the order, combining to go 9-for-13 with nine RBIs. Top prospect Carlos Correa also went deep for the Astros in the sixth inning.
Second baseman Neil Walker went deep for the first time this spring in the third inning, lining a three-run shot to right, but the Astros put up four runs in the third inning and five more in the fourth to put the game out of reach early on.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Locke escapes early jam: Locke worked his way out of a potential big inning in the first after giving up a leadoff double and a one-out single to put runners on the corners. He then struck out Castro and coaxed a comebacker from Matt Dominguez, leaving both runners on. It was reminiscent of Locke's 2013 success, when he stranded nearly 76 percent of his baserunners. He couldn't repeat that success in the third inning, however.
Carter sees double: Carter snapped out of his spring slump in a big way on Tuesday, going 3-for-3 with two doubles and four RBIs. Carter, who entered the day just 1-for-13 (.077) on the spring, opened the scoring in the third inning with a two-run double on a line shot down the left-field line then added another two-run double on an almost identical hit one inning later to push Houston's lead to 9-3.
Botched pick-off leads to three-run homer: Right-hander Roberto Hernandez, who's locked into his own battle for the final spot in the Astros' rotation, ran into some third-inning trouble after being staked to an early lead. Hernandez appeared to have Josh Harrison picked off of first base for what would have been the second out of the inning. But Harrison managed to dive back in safely after first baseman Jon Singleton had trouble handling a tough throw while scrambling to return to first base during the rundown. The mishap proved costly as, after a base hit and a popout, Walker crushed a two-out, three-run homer that cut Houston's lead to 4-3 at the time.
Correa goes deep: Correa, the No. 3 prospect in baseball according to MLBPipeline.com, picked up right where Carter left off when he assumed his spot in the order. The 20-year-old shortstop ripped an opposite-field homer on a first-pitch fastball from hard-throwing Pirates reliever John Holdzkom. It was Correa's first homer of the spring.
"I know I threw the ball to both sides of the plate pretty well, for the most part. I just got hurt over the middle. When you're not getting hurt over the middle, that's the hitters getting themselves out versus you getting them out." -- Locke
"It definitely helps the momentum when you got guys constantly on base, especially in scoring position with less than two outs. You kind of realize that you don't have to do too much, and usually that's when the good things happen." -- Castro
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Extra, extra: The Astros' eight extra-base hits in Tuesday's victory were more than they had in any regular-season game all of last year. Their season-high for a single game in 2014 was seven, a total they reached on three separate occasions.
Trying for two: Holdzkom, competing for a job in the Bucs' bullpen, came out for a second inning of work for the first time Tuesday. After giving up a homer to Correa in the sixth, he walked two of the three batters he faced in the seventh, exiting after recording only one out. It's worth noting that Arquimedes Caminero, a fellow hard-throwing righty reliever, pitched two scoreless innings with two strikeouts in his first two-inning appearance Sunday -- and that unlike Holdzkom, Caminero is out of Minor League options.
Right-hander A.J. Burnett will take the mound as the Pirates host the Tigers at McKechnie Field on Wednesday night. It will be Burnett's third appearance of the spring; he's given up two runs on a hit and three walks while striking out two over 4 1/3 innings in Grapefruit League play. Mark Melancon, Tony Watson, Antonio Bastardo and Casey Sadler are also scheduled to pitch for the Pirates. Right-hander Shane Greene will start for the Tigers. First pitch is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. ET, and the game will be broadcast live on MLB.TV and you can listen on Gameday Audio.
Following an off-day on Wednesday, the Astros will travel to Port St. Lucie, Fla., on Thursday to take on the Mets in a 12:10 p.m. CT game, which you can see live on MLB.TV. Right-hander Collin McHugh will take the mound for Houston as he looks to bounce back from a disastrous outing last Saturday. McHugh, who will be starting opposite Mets righty Dillon Gee, was tagged for five runs off six hits over just 2 1/3 innings against the Braves on Saturday after having tossed five shutout innings over his first two Grapefruit League outings.
Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. Paul Casella is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.