Hernandez caps strong spring, Astros beat Double-A team 7-4
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (AP) Roberto Hernandez pitched six innings in his longest outing of a successful spring, leading the Houston Astros past their Double-A Corpus Christi affiliate 7-4 on Thursday night.
Jed Lowrie, Robbie Grossman and Hank Conger each drove in two runs for the Astros.
Carlos Correa, the No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft and the club's top-rated prospect, homered for the Hooks.
Hernandez allowed seven hits and improved to 4-0 this spring. He struck out six and walked none.
''He's been sharper with his command and strike one,'' Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. ''But this is his first extended outing where into the sixth inning he's into 90 pitches. So he brought his best tonight and that was good enough.''
The 34-year-old right-hander shook off a shaky start to retire his final 10 batters and 14 of the last 15. Hernandez threw 90 pitches, 62 for strikes.
''The first two innings I tried to overthrow the ball a little bit,'' he said. ''I tried to slow the motion and keep the ball down. ... I threw every pitch today. I threw more sinkers, changeups. They were working.''
Hernandez, who threw five innings last Saturday against Miami, had already secured a spot in the starting rotation.
''He was battling himself a little bit,'' Hinch said. ''He's a tempo-driven guy, so if he's not clicking multiple ways then he can spray the ball a little bit. But for the most part he's generally a strike-thrower that keeps the ball on the ground with his heavy sinker. But it took him a little bit to get the feel tonight.''
The Astros erased a 2-1 deficit in the third by scoring four times off Corpus Christi's Mike Hauschild. George Springer drew a one-out walk and went to third on a single by Luis Valbuena. A walk to Chris Carter loaded the bases before Lowrie delivered a two-run double.
Houston extended the lead to 5-2 an out later on Grossman's two-run single.
Valbuena's RBI single gave the Astros a 1-0 lead in front of 7,079 fans at Whataburger Field. But the Hooks answered in the first on Colin Moran's RBI single and went ahead on Telvin Nash's leadoff homer in the second.
Conger's two-run single in the eighth accounted for Houston's final runs.
Correa connected leading off the eighth, and Nash added an RBI double.
Valbuena was 2 for 2, improving his spring average to .429. He was third in the Grapefruit League in batting average and sixth in slugging and on-base percentage.
Correa, who was sidelined for the second half of last season after breaking his right leg when sliding into third with a triple for Class A Lancaster, got off to a slow start. He was 0 for 3 with two strikeouts before he homered and added a double in the ninth. He also turned in three defensive gems at shortstop.
Astros: Scott Feldman makes his final spring start against Kansas City at Minute Maid Park on Friday.
Hooks: Corpus Christi opens the Texas League season at Springfield on April 9.