Found May 22, 2012 on Fox Sports Houston:
A6
HOUSTON In the ceaseless search for a clue to what makes the Astros tick offensively came the presentation of another bit of crucial evidence. The Astros on Monday hammered Cubs right-hander Matt Garza, possessor one of the elite arms in the National League. They bashed him for seven runs over three innings in their 8-4 victory at Minute Maid Park, burnishing their burgeoning reputation against flamethrowers. Garza (2-2) entered this three-game series ranked seventh in the NL in opponents' batting average (.199). He was 18th in strikeout percentage (23.2) and seventh in average fastball velocity (93.4 miles per hour). He promptly surrendered three-run homers to Astros catcher Jason Castro in the second inning, and third baseman Chris Johnson in the third. Both homers came with two outs. Castro struck his blow down 0-2 in the count. For a lineup often hamstrung by its inconsistent approach at the plate, the results against the Cubs (15-27) were commendable. However, these results weren't foreign. Some of the Astros' more memorable offensive explosions have come against reputed fireballers. "We hope that we have good at-bats against other guys, too. That's what we want," Astros manager Brad Mills said. "We don't want it just to be against guys that are pretty firm throwers, and Garza is a pretty good pitcher and has thrown the ball his last couple outings extremely good." While four performances don't necessarily reveal a trend, they do portend to potential. April 19 in Washington the Astros (19-23) drilled three triples off right-hander Edwin Jackson in the first inning of their 11-4 victory. Jackson ranks 19th in the NL in strikeout percentage (22.8), and third in average fastball velocity (93.8 mph). Three nights later they touched up Dodgers right-hander Chad Billingsley for nine runs (five earned) over 3 13 innings. Carlos Lee struck for a two-run home run and Jordan Schafer added a grand slam to key a 12-0 win. Billingsley is 22nd in the NL in average fastball velocity (91.3 mph). Last Saturday night against Rangers left-hander Derek Holland, the Astros struck for three home runs to bolster their 6-5 triumph: a solo shot from catcher Chris Snyder, and two-run blasts from Lee and Justin Maxwell. Holland is 20th in the American League in strikeout percentage (21.1), and ninth in average fastball velocity (93.1 mph). Garza was the latest in a line of pitchers with plus fastballs to succumb. After Rangers right-hander Colby Lewis befuddled them with guile on Sunday, the Astros appeared set to meet the challenge Garza offered. "We were patient (at the plate)," Johnson said. "We got our pitches and did damage with them. He's a guy I haven't had much success off lately (Johnson was 0-for-2 with a walk and a strikeout against Garza) and I was really trying to focus in on getting a pitch I could drive and stay in the big part of the field. The first at-bat (a single two at-bats before Castro homered to right) I got a hanging curveball, and my second at-bat I got a fastball over the plate and hit it out (to straightaway center)." Like Johnson, Castro also turned on a fastball. Neither saw their success as a coincidence when set against the preference of their teammates. "I know we've got a lot of guys on our team that like to hit the fastball," Johnson said. "That's one thing we're working on. When we get a guy up there that's picking a little bit and throwing a lot of off-speed pitches, we've got to really focus in on getting a good pitch to hit. When you get a guy throwing hard like that he tends to challenge you a little bit. We've got some guys on our team that like to get after the fastball." If this small sample size is more than narrative, the Astros will get another opportunity to prove their ability against a power arm. The Cubs will send right-hander Jeff Samardzija (4-2, 3.00 ERA) to the mound in the series finale on Wednesday night. Samardzija, a former reliever, ranks second in the NL in average fastball velocity (94.8 mph) and sixth in strikeout percentage (25.5). Like Garza, he will throw hard. Given what's been revealed, the Astros should be invigorated. "We have some guys that put great swings on fastballs, and that's important," said Castro, whose home run was his first since July 19, 2010 against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. "To hit off the fastball is what we need to do to be successful. Everything else will come off of that. To be efficient to the fastball is definitely of the utmost importance." Follow me on Twitter at moisekapenda
THE BACKYARD
BEST OF MAXIM
RELATED ARTICLES

Astros patiently waiting for Lyles to settle in

HOUSTON Admit it: All of your doubts concerning Jordan Lyles' faltering promise started clanging about in the back of your mind as the Rangers battered him in the first inning on Sunday at Minute Maid Park. The chasm between his big-league debut on May 31, 2011 and his laborious third start of this season never felt wider. Lyles once represented the very best the Astros'...

Houston Astros playing it close to the vest

This past Saturday, Houston Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow took time out of his busy schedule to come speak to the local Society for American Baseball Researchers (SABR). He was delayed in arriving likely because he was coming back into Houston from scouting potential number one overall picks. Of course, he wouldn’t divulge who he was scouting or even where he...

Astros on the way to becoming a winning team

The Houston Astros, once universally alleged to be the worst team of all the teams, are now three games under .500 and four games out of first place in the National League Central Division. They have gradually won over some doubters, who were at first surprised, then intrigued and now fully engaged with a team that is hitting better and pitching better than it was supposed to be...

Astros pitching staff leading surprise surge

Before the season began, many people thought the Astros in their rebuilding mode were destined to lose over 100 games for the second straight season. The club was without any established hitters in their prime and the new young regulars had not proven anything yet in the major leagues. The pitching staff was headed by an under achiever with a great arm and a veteran lefty who had...

Difference between winning and losing is small

If not for a first inning in which Jordan Lyles could not seem to keep his pitches down in the strike zone or anywhere close to the location he was trying to throw them the Astros would have had a chance against the Rangers on Sunday. From the second inning on Lyles was a pitcher who can win in the major leagues. But Lyles was not on his game in that opening frame and the Rangers...

Astros 2, Cubs 1

J.D. Martinez hit the go-ahead RBI single in the sixth inning and Jose Altuve had a solo homer to give the Houston Astros a 2-1 win over the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday night. The loss extends Chicago's losing skid to a season-long eight games. The hit by Martinez was the first for Houston since the first inning, but Justin Maxwell and Carlos Lee both drew two-out walks before...

Norris throws seven scoreless, Astros top Cubs

HOUSTON (AP) -- Jason Castro and Chris Johnson each hit three-run homers and Bud Norris threw seven scoreless innings to give the Houston Astros an 8-4 victory over the slumping Chicago Cubs on Monday night. Castro's home run came in the second inning and Johnson added his in the third, to hand the Cubs their season-high seventh loss in a row. Jed Lowrie homered for the second...

Astros hand Cubs 8th straight loss

HOUSTON (AP) -- J.D. Martinez hit the go-ahead RBI single in the sixth inning and Jose Altuve had a solo homer to give the Houston Astros a 2-1 win over the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday night. The loss extends Chicago's losing skid to a season-long eight games. The hit by Martinez was the first for Houston since the first inning, but Justin Maxwell and Carlos Lee both drew two-out...

Astros 8, Cubs 4

Jason Castro and Chris Johnson each hit three-run homers and Bud Norris threw seven scoreless innings to give the Houston Astros an 8-4 victory over the slumping Chicago Cubs on Monday night. Castro's home run came in the second inning and Johnson added his in the third, to hand the Cubs their season-high seventh loss in a row. Jed Lowrie homered for the second straight game...

Houston's Johnson ejected against Cubs

Houston third baseman Chris Johnson has been ejected from Tuesday night's game with the Chicago Cubs after slamming his helmet on the ground and arguing a call at first base in the fourth inning. With the game tied at 1-1, Johnson hit a ground ball to shortstop Starlin Castro, who made a diving stop and whose throw to first appeared to barely beat Johnson. Johnson was called...

This is the story about a man named Jed

The Red Sox should never make trades with the Houston Astros. In what might be the beantowner's second worst trade since Bagwell, the team from Boston sent Jed Lowrie and Kyle Weiland for Mark Melancon. And sure, Melancon did have a severe meltdown early for the Red Sox, but he's pitching really well at Triple A and he can still help the team from Boston. Even so,the...

Cubs-Astros Preview

Houston Astros starter Bud Norris wanted to improve upon a spotty 2011, and he's doing just that. The slumping Chicago Cubs might not be able to do much to slow down his strong start to 2012. Norris will try to win a career-best fourth consecutive start Monday night at Minute Maid Park, where the Astros and Cubs begin the final season of their NL Central rivalry. Norris (4...

Astros sign Armando Galarraga to a Minor League deal

According to Brian McTaggart of MLB.com, the Houston Astros have signed veteran right hander Armando Galarraga to a Minor League deal. McTaggart adds that Galarraga “will help the Astros fill a rotation spot at Triple-A Oklahoma City.” The Orioles released the 30-year old started back in April. Last season, Galarraga went 3-4 with Arizona while posting a 5.91 ERA, 2.1 HR/9, 4...
MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.