KANSAS CITY -- Astros manager A.J. Hinch has a good problem on his hands in the American League Division Series.
Houston has a surplus of center fielders, chief among them Carlos Gomez and Jake Marisnick. And though Gomez, who didn't start Game 1 while nursing a strained intercostal muscle, was expected back in the Astros' starting lineup for Game 2 against the host Royals on Friday -- a 5-4 loss that evened the series at 1-1 -- Hinch stuck with Marisnick.
The decision was two-fold: Give Gomez additional rest, while keeping him available off the bench, and reward Marisnick for the game-changing defensive work he provided Thursday. Marisnick went 1-for-3 in the start on Friday; Gomez entered as the potential tying run in the ninth as a pinch-runner and was picked off by Royals reliever Wade Davis for the second out of the inning on a call that was overturned by replay.
"I've got the dilemma of I've got Jake Marisnick coming off a great game," Hinch said Friday morning. "He's a really good center fielder at 100 percent vs. taking the risk with Gomez at less than 100 percent.
"So I made the decision, met with Gomey and just told him I'd like to stay with the hot hand with Marisnick."
The sound Marisnick not only doubled and scored a run in the second inning of Houston's Game 1 win, but he also flashed his glove work in the fifth inning with a spectacular diving catch in center to rob Kansas City shortstop Alcides Escobar of a potential RBI hit and quiet a thunderous Kauffman Stadium.
The all-around showing solidified Hinch's decision to play Marisnick, who never let his inconsistencies at the plate this season affect his defensive wizardry.
"What I can bring every day is defense," Marisnick said. "And, I mean, I feel like I've done a pretty good job. I've never taken my offense out there with me. Any time I can impact the game, taking runs off the board is the same as putting runs on."
Having the opportunity to do so on a big stage brings Marisnick even more pride.
"Ever since I was a kid, it's kind of something I've loved doing," Marisnick said. "I've loved being out there, running around and chasing down fly balls. [It] just reminds me of being a kid and playing Little League and playing in the back yard with my brother.
"To be out here in this stadium and doing it in a game like this is, it's a dream come true. It's something I've always wanted to do."
Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.