FORT MYERS, Fla. — For the second time over a six-day period, a Houston Astros split squad managed to produce a win over the AL East powerhouse Boston Red Sox.
Astros second baseman Kaz Matsui displayed some pop in his bat with a 2-for-3 performance, including a two-run homer off Red Sox standout Jon Lester, to lead the Astros to a 10-7 win over Boston’s split squad Sunday afternoon at City of Palms Park.
Third baseman Chris Johnson joined Matsui in the power surge with a two-out solo blast off Hideki Okajima in the sixth inning.
After falling behind 5-1 in the second, the Astros’ offense gradually chipped away at the lead until a six-run seventh inning sealed the deal.
While Matsui and Johnson were responsible for driving in five of the 10 runs, outfielder Brandon Barnes, the Astros’ sixth round pick in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, added a hit, two RBI and two runs scored.
Houston starter Bud Norris struggled in his third spring outing, allowing five earned runs on five hits with two walks and two strikeouts over 1 2/3 innings. The 25-year-old Norris surrendered a two-run homer to Mike Cameron in the second inning, as well as a three-run blast to 2008 AL MVP Dustin Pedroia.
Although Norris’ ERA currently stands at 10.80, he’s still projected to be the team’s No. 4 starter.
Right-hander Brian Moehler, who’s battling for the final rotation spot, tossed four innings, yielding just two runs on seven hits. Also, Chris Sampson recorded a scoreless inning to secure his first save of the spring.
For the Red Sox, leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury had three hits, while Kevin Youkilis added a double and RBI. Furthermore, catcher Jason Varitek posted two hits in three at-bats, and Mike Lowell made his first start of the spring, going 0-for-3.
Lester allowed three earned runs on five hits with seven strikeouts in 5 1/2 innings.
When the Astros’ offense needed to step up most, they managed to do so against Red Sox star closer Jonathan Papelbon. The four-time All-Star right-hander was torched for six runs (five earned) in only 1/3 of an inning.
With manager Brad Mills (former Red Sox bench coach) defeating his former employer once again this spring, the 53-year-old first-time big league skipper continues to watch his team’s offense produce in clutch situations.
The Astros were 5-for-10 with runners in scoring position, and have shown consistency over the course of Grapefruit League action in this particular category.
Houston (10-7) returns to action Monday afternoon when they host the St. Louis Cardinals at Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee for a 12:05 p.m. CT start. Left-hander Wandy Rodriguez will get the start, with Wesley Wright, Wilton Lopez and Josh Banks also scheduled to pitch.
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