Friday night notes: new lineup, CJ’s playing time, Altuve’s leg.

The proverbial second half of the season (I say “proverbial” because the Astros are actually beyond the half-way point, having played 92 games in the first half) began with a little lineup shakeup by manager Brad Mills. It wasn’t actually so much a shakeup as it was a minor shift — everyone moved down a spot, with Matt Downs moving into the two-hole and playing third base.

It wasn’t a huge change, but still, it knocked Hunter Pence to the cleanup spot and Carlos Lee to the five-hole, a spot he’s only been in one other time this year. Mills’ hope is that with Michael Bourn, Downs and Jeff Keppinger — all of whom are pretty good at getting on base — batting in front of the two presumed run-producers, the Astros will, well, produce more runs.

“Hunter’s having such a good year,” Mills said. “And Carlos has been an RBI guy his whole career. We’re trying to get them (at-bats) with more guys on.”

It’s probably unfair to judge the new plan on one game, especially since the Astros lost to the Pirates, due to very few contributions on the offensive side. But Mills indicated before the game he’s prepared to give this new lineup a nice, long look, and really, given the Astros’ record through 93 games, why not?

____________

The two most asked questions from Twitterverse on Friday involved Chris Johnson (is he ever going to start again?) and Jose Altuve (why isn’t he playing?)

First, on CJ. Mills said he talked to the third baseman during the workout on Thursday and told him the diminished playing time is “nothing against him. We’re still looking for him to be a part of this.”

This isn’t terribly difficult to decipher. Johnson was hitting .237 over his last 10 games entering Friday’s opener with the Pirates, and overall this year, he was batting .243 and had struck out 74 times. Downs, in a much lesser role, had a batting average nearly 30 points higher (.270 before Friday’s game) and has as many home runs as Johnson (six) with nearly one-third as many at-bats.

The Astros rarely win, the offense is struggling and Mills is looking for an answer. So for now, Downs is going to play more. Johnson, it should be noted, singled in a pinch-hit at-bat on Friday.

Next, Altuve:

A few of you have asked why the Double-A Hooks second baseman hasn’t played in the last few days. According to my spies in Corpus, Altuve aggravated a leg muscle Monday night when he was running the bases in the sixth inning. Manager Tom Lawless said he’d be sidelined a couple of days, but that was on Tuesday. Altuve hasn’t been placed on the disabled list, which means he’s probably due back soon.

____________

Thanks to everyone who purchased Social Media Night tickets for Saturday night in the Budweiser Patio. As a reminder, here is the timeline:

3 p.m. — Meet in Union Station for the ballpark tour and/or batting practice. If you don’t want the tour, we will be there to take you directly to BP. If you do go on the tour, you’ll join the group behind the Astros’ dugout around 3:45 to watch BP.

After batting practice we ask everyone be seated in the Budweiser Patio (behind center field) by 5 p.m. You can go out there at your leisure, but the program with Matt Downs begins sharply at 5 and ends no later than 5:15.

We’ll have popcorn and kettle chips to munch on before the game starts, and we’ll start serving dinner — Ballpark Beef Nachos — right around the first pitch.

The Will Call windows will be open in plenty of time for you to pick up your tickets and make the tour on time.

____________

We conclude with a few images from batting practice on Friday…

Jason Castro, rehabbing from season-ending knee surgery, works out with the team during homestands.

Brett Wallace, Chris Johnson take grounders

Carlos Lee, smiling at first base

Clint Barmes with folks from Clint's Crew

Astros are on Facebook

Follow Alyson Footer on Twitter

Check out our witticsms on AstrosOneLiners

Questions? Email afooter@astros.com

5 Comments

I have a lineup
Pence
Barmes
Lee
Johnson
Keppinger
Wallace
Bourn
Quintero
Pitcher
What do you think?

I’m still trying to figure out why Bogusevic rarely plays.

That is, unless Matt’s wife decides it’s time to have their baby! Becky:)

This manager should also be fired !!! He has no idea and has lost this team.

I’m sorry Alyson, but I’m disappointed to see you make such misleading statements regarding CJ and Downs. While Downs does have goo numbers overall, you need to look at his splits between starting and subbing. (these stats courtesy of austin over at astros290.com)

As a stater: .207/.277/.397 with 5 doubles, 2 HRs, 7 RBIs, 5 BBs and 16 Ks in 65 plate appearances
As a sub: .357/.481/.738 with 4 doubles, 4 HRs, 15 RBIs, 8 BBs and 6 Ks in 52 plate appearances

So Downs isn’t better than CJ as a third baseman, and when Downs starts, he’s an offensive downgrade at a key position.

Regarding CJ’s last 10 games, how can you expect him to be consisitantly good when HIS last 10 games (including firday’s pinch hit appearance) stretch back to the TEAM’S last 15 games? He’s only been in 5 games in the last 2 weeks. That’s pretty damning when it comes to stunting a young player’s development, especially a player that was hitting .298 in June.

So when you ask about CJ sitting and Downs playing: “given the Astros’ record through 93 games, why not?”, I can answer that. You shuoldn’t because you’re stunting the development of a player that should be the power-hitting third baseman of this team’s future, because you’re trying to salvage your managerial record at the expense of CJ and Wallace.

This team isn’t winning anything this year. Mills should focus on next year and player development, not trying to avoid losing 100 games so he can keep his job.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 254 other followers

%d bloggers like this: