Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Saccomanno's blast not enough to defeat Philadelphia

Stephen Goff

The 2008 World Series champions Philadelpha Phillies wasted no time in jumping out to an early 2-0 lead against a Houston Astros split squad in route to a 5-2 victory at Osceola County Stadium this past Saturday.

Right-hander Russ Ortiz has emerged as the favorite for the final rotation spot, but struggled with mechanics, giving up seven hits and three runs in 3 2/3 innings.

Ortiz walked three, struck out two and informed manager Cecil Cooper that he felt great, but simply had a bad day.

On the other hand, Phillies' starting prospect Carlos Carrasco overpowered the Houston offense, allowing four hits and one run, striking out four in his attempt to earn a spot in Philadelphia's rotation.

Carrasco helped his cause by containing Houston sluggers Carlos Lee and Miguel Tejada to an 0-for-6 performance. The Astros lack of offense carries on as Lance Berkman, Matt Kata and Mark Saccomano combined for five of the team's eight hits.

Kata singled and scored on a first inning RBI double by Berkman. Saccomanno went deep with a seventh inning solo homer off Andrew Carpenter.

The majority of Houston's bats remain relatively silent this spring. An increasing concern circulates throughout the clubhouse regarding the lack of offense and mediocre defense.

Philadelphia provided plenty of offense with 11 hits, including a 3-for-4 effort by Pablo Ozuna. Greg Dobbs drove in two runs, one with an RBI double in the first and Jayson Werth crushed a solo homer in the fifth. Veteran Matt Stairs participated in the action, going 2-for-3.

Cooper's club has a 1-13-2 record and continues to search for answers. For the most part, Cooper's frustrations lies with the offense and defense.

Additional discontent triggers in the race for the No. 5 spot in the rotation behind ineffective performances from injured Brandon Backe, Fernando Nieve and Felipe Paulino. The inability to score runs and lack of production from starters like Michael Bourn and Kaz Matsui have also enraged Cooper.

Houston returns to the field Sunday in a 1:05 p.m. ET start at Lake Buena Vista against the Atlanta Braves. All-Star RHP Derek Lowe, who recently dominated the Astros, gets another chance to beat up some more on the Astros' quiet bats. Jose Capellan is scheduled to start for Houston in his attempt to earn the final rotation spot.

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