Road trip roundup: Wallace, Martinez and rainy days in the ‘nati
The chatter in the manager’s office before the opener in Cincinnati on Tuesday was largely focused on Brett Wallace. Manager Brad Mills was asked a couple of pointed questions, including whether inserting the young first baseman in the cleanup spot was putting too much pressure on him and if his lack of power — he had just one home run entering the game — was alarming to any degree.
The first part was easy. Wallace is early in his career but is mature beyond his years, and looking at the kind of numbers he put up in college and all the way through the Minor Leagues, it’s safe to assume he probably spent quite a bit of time in the cleanup spot in the past.
So no, there was no hesitation on Mills’ part to challenge Wallace by moving him up one spot in the order, in Carlos Lee’s absence.
As for the low home run total, Mills explained it this way: “The first thing to come is hitting the ball the other way. Then the home runs usually follow after that. There’s no reason to think it won’t happen that way with Brett.”
Later that night, Wallace extended his hitting streak to 11 games with two hits in five at-bats — and he knocked his second home run of the year.
It’s rare when a game is postponed hours before it is scheduled to start. Normally, the teams will wait, and wait, and wait — hours, sometimes — before finally, mercifully, calling it.
The Reds wisely looked at the radar Monday and saw there was no end to the steady rain that had soaked the city for most of the season. By 3:45 p.m. the Astros knew they had a night off, with the game rescheduled for Thursday, a mutual offday for both teams.
For most of the people involved — the players, manager, coaching staff, reporters, broadcasters — that information was met with a nod and a shrug. The focus changes from the now-cancelled game to what’s for dinner. Given the exhausting pace of a baseball season, let’s face it, there are worse things than a sudden, previously unscheduled night off.
So it’s a pretty stress-free situation — unless, that is, you’re the traveling secretary. When a game is rescheduled for an offday, several elements of a typical road trip need to be tended to. A new flight — and a new flight crew — need to be booked; the food for the flight needs to be reordered, the buses that take the teams to the airport in one city and from the airport to the hotel in the next, as well as the equipment trucks, need to be rescheduled.
Perhaps most importantly, hotels have to be rebooked in one city and cancelled in the next. The Astros had to add an extra night in the Cincinnati hotel while breaking the news to the Pittsburgh hotel that they’re losing a night of revenue due to the extra day they’ll have to spend in the prior city.
The Cincinnati hotel situation was not an issue this time, because thankfully, the Reds are also leaving town after this series. But if the Reds were in the middle of a homestand and not at the end of one, and another team was scheduled to be in town over the weekend, that could have created a bit of an issue, because most likely, there would not have been enough rooms to accommodate both teams during the one-day overlap.
For Astros traveling secretary Barry Waters, the rainout and subsequent rescheduling was a seamless process, mainly because he looked at the radar before the team left for Cincinnati and saw then that he better put the “Plan B” wheels in motion.
“I had looked at the forecast and done some leg work at the end of last week,” he said. “I called everybody. I told them there was a possibility (a rainout) was going to happen.”
Water said he looked at the schedule and saw both teams were off on Thursday and pretty much guessed what the outcome would be. After about “a half-dozen” phone calls when the game was officially called, everyone — the airline, hotel, buses, trucks — were on board.
“It was good because you just basically take everything and move it back 24 hours,” Waters said. “We had a few days of leeway to get this done.”
When the team’s media relations director handed out the release on Tuesday detailing the Astros’ Minor League players of the month, I quickly scanned the Corpus Christi section and looked for J.D. Martinez, who sizzled for the Hooks in April.
But Martinez was not named the Hooks offensive player of the month. That honor went to shortstop Wladimir Sutil, who separated himself from the pack with a .418 batting average and a .480 on base percentage. Sutil was also named the club’s defensive player of the month after making just two errors in 100 total chances while turning 17 double plays.
It speaks well for a team when player of the month honors could, without argument, go to a couple of candidates. Over 22 games, Martinez batted .341 (29-for-85) with 12 doubles, two home runs and 23 RBIs. That means Martinez, whom the Astros are grooming to someday take over in left field, drove in approximately one run per game.
Other players of the month:
Triple-A Oklahoma City: RHP Jordan Lyles, IF Koby Clemens, C Carlos Corporan.
Double-A Corpus Christi: RHP Arcenio Leon.
Class A Lancaster: RHP Kirk Clark, IF Jose Altuve, IF Jonathan Myers.
Class A Lexington: RHP Tanner Bushue, C Chris Wallace, IF Jio Mier.
A couple of notables from Wednesday’s game:
*Aneury Rodriguez‘ five shutout innings were the most by an Astro making his first Major League start since Bud Norris went seven scoreless innings in his first start on Aug. 2, 2009 at St. Louis, a 2-0 Astros win.
*Astros starters have posted a 2.57 ERA in the last eight games, including Wednesday (49 IP, 14 ER).
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