Astros right fielder Hunter Pence blasted his first homer of the spring en route to a three-hit performance, including two RBI and two runs scored, Wednesday afternoon to lift Houston to a 10-6 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates at McKechnie Field in Bradenton, Fla.
Pence improved his Grapefruit League batting average to .385 and now has eight RBI with Opening Day on the horizon.
Unfortunately, he had to depart in the fifth inning after sliding into home plate in order to tend to a cut on his shin that required four stitches.
“I’m totally fine,” Pence said. “I didn’t even know I was cut until I took off my sock. I felt good today. I’ll be ready to play tomorrow.”
Although Pence wants to return to action Thursday, manager Brad Mills doesn’t want to rush his star right fielder back into action.
“We’ll see how it is in the morning,” Mills said. “There’s no need to rush him back. We’re going to need him over the long haul.”
Catcher Humberto Quintero, known for his strong arm behind the plate, picked off opposing catcher Ryan Doumit twice and also finished with three hits.
“That is such a weapon to have his arm back there,” Mills said. “The strong, accurate arm he showed today just goes without saying. It’s nice to see him do extremely well. It gives him confidence.”
Brett Wallace drove in three runs with a hit and two sacrifice flies.
Outfielders Jason MIchaels and Brian Bogusevic each added two hits, with Bogusevic recording his first stolen base of the spring.
Angel Sanchez, who remains in the running for a backup middle-infield spot, had a hit in his first game back since March 15 due to lower back pain.
Houston starter J.A. Happ (3-1) allowed five earned runs, including two homers, on nine hits with two walks and four strikeouts over six innings.
However, he did enough to escape with his third victory of Grapefruit League action.
“I think he was more consistent,” Mills said. “I thought he was able to bounce back and throw the ball well. I was happy with that and it was good to see him get his pitch count up there. It’s good to know he can go out there and throw for six innings.”
Jose Valdez, Wesley Wright, Enerio Del Rosario and Gustavo Chacin surrendered an earned run over three combined innings.
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen hit a two-run homer to lead the offensive attack, while Pedro Alvarez also added a home run.
Lyle Overbay, Doumit and Ronny Cedeno posted two hits apiece, with Jose Tabata and starting pitcher Brian Burres each driving in a run.
Burres (1-1) yielded six earned runs on 10 hits with one walk and two strikeouts to earn his first loss of Grapefruit League action.
The Astros (11-18) will send right-hander Bud Norris, who’s coming off his best start, to the mound Thursday afternoon when they host the Tampa Bay Rays at Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee, Fla.
Relievers Brandon Lyon, Mark Melancon, Fernando Abad and Ross Wolf are scheduled to follow Norris in the pitching rotation.
First pitch is scheduled for 12:05 p.m. CT.
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