Posts Tagged ‘Brad Mills’

Rocky start for Wright as Astros skid

August 8, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — What a difference a week made for the Astros and Wesley Wright.

Coming to Milwaukee, the Astros had hopes of building another winning streak and, with a sweep, moving into third place in the National League Central.

Three days later, Houston was the team that was swept, and with four straight losses, the Astros head home on a low note after an 11-6 defeat at the hands of the Brewers on Sunday.

Just a week removed from earning his first Major League win as a starter over the very same Brewers team, Wright had no such luck at Miller Park. Wright lasted just 2 1/3 innings, surrendering seven runs on five hits and four walks.

“Execution,” Wright said of the difference from his last start. “I really struggled from the first inning on to get on top of the ball and drive it down in the zone. I was behind from the start, and they were able to get some big hits with guys in scoring position.”

A week earlier, Wright went seven strong at Minute Maid Park, giving up just two runs on four hits with a walk and six strikeouts. Wright did not allow a run until the sixth and reached career highs in innings and strikeouts.

In that game, the Brewers seemed unable to make the necessary adjustments against the 25-year-old lefty. On Sunday, it was Wright who couldn’t adjust.

“He threw so well last week against them, and you’d always like to see a guy be able to build on a good performance,” Astros manager Brad Mills said. “They didn’t have to worry about adjustments. The ball seemed to be high arm side, and he was having trouble getting balls back down in. Those adjustments were tough.”

After the Astros opened with two runs on four hits in the first, Wright gave up four runs before recording a second out, as the Brewers’ first five batters reached base.

“Every game is different,” Brewers manager Ken Macha said. “You can’t just write one guy out there and figure he is going to do what he did in the game before.”

The Brewers had another four-run inning in the third, sparked by a trio of Brewers rookies, as Wright walked the first two batters of the inning before recording an out.

After a two-run double to left-center off the bat of Lorenzo Cain, the Brewers’ rookie center fielder, Wright’s day was done. Nelson Figueroa came on and surrendered a single and double to Alcides Escobar and Jonathan Lucroy, respectively, before ending the inning with a pair of strikeouts.

An inning later, a Casey McGehee three-run home run into the Brewers’ bullpen in left off Gustavo Chacin put an exclamation point on Milwaukee’s big day.

Most frustrating for Wright was the fact that Gallardo, like Wright, didn’t seem to have his best stuff in the series finale. But after tossing an impressive second inning, Wright said he “wasn’t able to get the ball rolling,” and keep the Astros in the game.

For Gallardo, who improved to 11-5 on the season, after giving up four runs on eight hits and one walk against seven strikeouts, all that mattered was the victory.

“Any time I do what I was supposed to, which is get the team a win, it’s always a plus,” Gallardo said. “I gave up a couple of [runs] there in the first inning, but our hitters came back with a four-spot.

“After that, it’s about staying with the lead and not returning it the other way.”

Offensively, the Astros continued to swing the bats well, just not quite as well — or efficiently — as the Brewers. After sitting out Saturday due to a sore right foot, center fielder Michael Bourn put together a 3-for-5 game with two runs, two RBIs and a double.

A two-run single in the fourth by Bourn cut the Brewers’ lead to 8-4 at the time, and a pair of back-to-back doubles by Hunter Pence and Carlos Lee leading off the eighth gave the Astros their fifth run. Lee and second baseman Jeff Keppinger joined Bourn with two RBIs.

On a weekend when so many things didn’t go the Astros’ way, the six-run output was one of the few bright spots.

“There’s no doubt,” Mills said when asked whether the offense was nice to see. “[Bourn’s] three hits with some RBIs after sitting out last night — and he’s got that sore foot from when he was hit in St. Louis — that was nice to see. Carlos, it’s nice to see him get some hits as well.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Astros beat 8/8

August 8, 2010 Comments off

Keppinger moves to third spot in lineup

MILWAUKEE — With the way Jeff Keppinger has been hitting this season, his manager said he would be comfortable batting him just about anywhere in the lineup.

Anywhere included the No. 3 spot on Sunday as Astros manager Brad Mills shook up his lineup a bit in the series finale with the Brewers.

“I like Hunter [Pence] behind the guys who are getting on base,” Mills said. “Hunter seems to find some way to get hits. It might not be the prettiest thing all the time, but he finds ways to get hits.”

Keppinger, along with Michael Bourn and Angel Sanchez, has been as consistent as anyone in the Houston lineup when it comes to getting on base. Entering the game Sunday, Keppinger, Sanchez and Bourn had on-base percentages of .355, .353 and .328, respectively.

Only rookies Brett Wallace (.409) and Chris Johnson (.383) had higher on-base percentages than Keppinger. But with the inexperience of Wallace and Johnson, the manager preferred them in the No. 6 and No. 7 spots.

“He’ll do a good job in any spot,” Mills said of Keppinger. “He continues to get on and have good at-bats. If we can get that guy hitting in front of Hunter, we’ll be all right.”

Sanchez’s bunt attempt earns Mills’ praise

MILWAUKEE — With a runner on and one out in the seventh on Saturday, rookie shortstop Angel Sanchez laid down a bunt toward third base that looked like a sure base hit.

Brewers left-hander Randy Wolf had other ideas, though, as he made a spectacular defensive play for the out, which later earned Wolf the night’s top “Web Gem” on ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight.”

Despite the outcome, manager Brad Mills praised the decision of Sanchez.

“Angel did a good job of giving it a shot there to get the inning going,” Mills said. “It was a good time to do it.”

Sanchez has been impressive since he was acquired from the Red Sox, solidifying the shortstop position in the absence of Tommy Manzella and Geoff Blum.

Most impressive to his manager, though, has been his comfort level with just doing what he’s capable of and not trying to do more than that.

“That’s what he does, he stays in his lane,” Mills said. “That’s all he has to do. When guys try to do more than they can do or they get out of their lane, sometimes you don’t know what to expect. It’s nice if you can pencil a guy in and you know what to expect.

“He’s going to have some good at-bats. He’s going to be able to move runners, he’s going to drive some guys in at times. That’s huge.”

Astros hope younger lineup helps future

MILWAUKEE — When the Astros opened the season, they had question marks all over the field, except the outfield. Looking at Sunday’s lineup, the outfield remained the same as Opening Day, and the rest was far from it.

Every infield position had a different starter Sunday than the Astros had for the first game of the season. With that in mind, manager Brad Mills hoped the end of this season would make for a better start to the next.

“That’s the biggest thing about being able to play young guys at the end of the season,” Mills said. “So you’re able to answer questions about them going into the following year, because you can’t always find out that many answers in Spring Training.”

That difference between Spring Training and the regular season is one reason Mills is an advocate for bringing up Minor League players and playing a younger lineup when the roster can be expanded in September.

Although he acknowledged that September is not exactly like the first five months of the season, Mills still thinks experience in the season’s final month is more valuable than Spring Training.

“The season is a different animal,” Mills said. “[September] is different, but at the same time it’s closer to it than Spring Training, with the fans in the stands and the times of day and the travel. It might not be the same, but it’s as close as you’re going to be able to get. So you can still answer some questions because of that.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Frustrating sixth continues Myers’ streak

August 8, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — Five pitches into the game, Brett Myers had given up a leadoff inside-the-park homer and a sharp double to the gap in left.

Those turned out to be the hardest hit balls of the night off Myers, but four soft singles did the Astros right-hander in Saturday at Miller Park.

Myers settled down after the Brewers’ first two batters, retiring 15 of the next 17 hitters he faced. With one out in the sixth, Myers surrendered four straight singles, which led to two more Brewers runs and the Astros’ 5-2 loss.

Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks led off the bottom of the first with a bang, driving an 0-2 fastball off the wall in left-center field. Weeks hustled around for an inside-the-park home run and his seventh career leadoff homer, a franchise record.

Center fielder Jason Bourgeois looked to have a play on the Weeks fly ball, but it got by him and caromed off the wall away from him.

“I thought I had a bead on it. I got a good jump, it just happened to get over my glove,” Bourgeois said. “I thought everything was going right, but it’s a game of inches. It got over.

“A little off line. That’s what I think it was when I looked at the replay. I wish I could have another try at it, but it’s the way the game goes.”

Bourgeois tracked the ball down quickly, but was too late to catch Weeks.

“I knew I had to get it, because I know Rickie can run a little bit,” Bourgeois said. “It just happened to get a little bit away from me. Hats off to him, he was hustling the whole time.”

Corey Hart followed with a double to the gap in left and came around to score after a pair of groundouts, giving Milwaukee the early 2-0 lead.

In the sixth, four straight singles by Hart, Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder and Casey McGehee brought home two more runs, and eventually ended Myers’ night after just 78 pitches.

“The first inning, I made some mistakes,” Myers said. “That first inning I’m fine with. The sixth inning, those are the frustrating ones, when you make good pitches and they end up finding holes. That’s baseball. That’s the way things go for you.”

Tossing six innings in the loss, Myers’ streak of consecutive starts of six or more innings continued Saturday.

Extending his franchise record streak to 23 straight starts to open the season, Myers gave up four runs on seven hits in those six innings while walking one and striking out two.

In the second through fifth innings, Myers faced only one over the minimum as he gave up just one hit — which was followed by a double play — and a walk.

“Brett threw the ball extremely well again,” manager Brad Mills said. “I say it every time, he’s been unbelievable all year long. Tonight he gave us a chance again.”

Myers was outdueled by former Phillies teammate Randy Wolf, though, who effectively shut down the Astros’ bats over 6 2/3 innings in his first start since being hit with a Hunter Pence line drive on Sunday.

Wolf kept the Astros hitters off balance all night, walking just one batter while recording four strikeouts. Although he did give up nine hits, Wolf stranded seven runners over the first five innings.

As if Wolf’s strong outing on the mound weren’t enough, he made a tremendous defensive play in the seventh, tossing out shortstop Angel Sanchez at first on a bunt between the mound and the third-base line.

“He made a lot of big pitches to get out of those innings,” Brewers manager Ken Macha said. “In the seventh inning, when Sanchez laid that bunt down, I thought he made a tremendous play. That was a huge help there.”

With the loss, Houston finds itself having dropped three straight on the heels of a season-high seven-game winning streak. In each of the three games, the pitching — Wandy Rodriguez’s start on Friday aside — has not been as sharp as it had been of late.

But the offense hasn’t helped either.

Astros hitters went just 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position Saturday night, with the only hits being the back-to-back doubles in the seventh that plated both Houston runs. Add a 3-for-15 night on Friday, and the Astros have gone 5-for-26 (.192) with runners in scoring position for the series.

“Any time that you go for a long string and leave a lot of runners on, it is going to catch up with you, if not that night, eventually,” Mills said. “We’re having some good at-bats, it’s just that it didn’t string together through the whole lineup tonight.

“They were able to put some hits back-to-back-to-back, even if they weren’t hit hard. Where we might have had quite a few hits, we weren’t able to string them all together.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Astros beat 8/7

August 8, 2010 Comments off

Mills thinks Hart was out on game-winner

MILWAUKEE — While the Brewers were celebrating a thrilling walk-off victory Friday night, the Astros and manager Brad Mills weren’t so sure about the game’s final run.

As right fielder Corey Hart scored the winning run Friday night, Mills was convinced he was out. His opinion remained the same Saturday afternoon.

Unfortunately, the ensuing celebration made it tough for Mills to voice his opinion.

“That is the toughest way to argue a call,” Mills said. “To go out there when everybody is running around — the umpires want to leave, they’re trying to get off the field, and I’m trying to state my case as he’s walking off. It’s a bad place to be.

“They were picking Hart up off the ground as I was running around trying to get to the umpire. That’s a tough situation.”

A closer look at Hart’s slide shows his left leg was several inches off the ground as Astros catcher Jason Castro turned to tag the All-Star right fielder. From the camera angle behind the plate, however, it’s difficult to see whether Hart scores before the tag is applied.

Mills said his catcher could have been better positioned on the play, though he understands the difficulty of catching the throw from right fielder Hunter Pence and making the tag at the plate.

“The ball is always going to travel quicker than the guy is able to get the ball and reach back,” Mills said. “We try to get the guys to straddle the bag and let the ball travel.

“When the ball’s coming from right field, it’s the worst for the catcher. His eyes are on the ball, and he can’t even see the runner out of his periphery. It makes it really difficult.”

Astros like Wallace’s approach at the plate

MILWAUKEE — Like the rest of the National League, the Astros are still learning just what kind of hitter rookie first baseman Brett Wallace could be.

Through five starts and 17 at-bats, early indications have been good.

Wallace showed off one part of his skill set Friday night as he drove a double into the gap in left-center field in the fifth, scoring shortstop Geoff Blum from first base. Hits to left-center field were a common theme for Wallace in the Minors.

In particular, manager Brad Mills also likes the calm approach Wallace seems to have in the batter’s box, regardless of the outcome.

“Isn’t that nice to see?” Mills said. “As a young kid, that sure looks nice.”

Bourn has green light when he feels right

MILWAUKEE — When it comes to stealing bases, it’s up to Michael Bourn to decide when he thinks it’s the right situation to go for it.

When Bourn reached base twice on Friday night, manager Brad Mills reminded his center fielder of that fact more often than usual. With Brewers catcher George Kottaras having thrown out just 16 percent of basestealers this season, the Astros knew they could have an easy time on the bases.

But Mills didn’t want to force Bourn to steal.

“I tried to emphasize him running, but you don’t want to force him to run,” Mills said. “He has to be able to feel it.

“He tried to go a couple times and just didn’t feel it. You can’t force a guy to run when he doesn’t feel comfortable, especially a guy like Michael.”

He finished the night with a pair of stolen bases, but Bourn might have had more if his right foot was feeling 100 percent

Bourn has been slowed since his foot was hit with a pitch Wednesday in St. Louis, though he has not missed any time. Although he was left out of the starting lineup Saturday, it had more to do with Bourn’s numbers against left-handed pitching than his right foot.

“It was sore last night. As he was coming off the field, I think you could [see that],” Mills said. “He said it hurts him more to jog than to run.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Lindstrom blows three-run lead in the ninth

August 6, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — Wandy Rodriguez and the offense had the Brewers down, but Matt Lindstrom couldn’t deliver the knockout punch for the Astros.

With a three-run lead in the ninth, Lindstrom came on looking for his 23rd save of the season. Considering he hadn’t allowed a run in 10 2/3 innings over his last 10 outings, the outcome seemed pretty certain.

Enter Joe Inglett.

With one on and one out in the ninth, Inglett belted his first career pinch-hit homer, cutting the lead to 5-4. It wasn’t exactly a no-doubter, either, as the ball hit the right-field foul pole.

“It was hooking pretty quick,” Inglett said. “I was just willing it to stay fair, and it stayed fair. I thought it wrapped around the pole, but everybody is saying it hit.”

Three batters later, Prince Fielder ripped a two-run walk-off single down the line in right, sending the Brewers fans home happy with a 6-5 victory.

Before his two-run blast on Friday, Inglett had not hit a home run all season. In fact, his last blast came on Sept. 3, 2008, at Minnesota off Nick Blackburn.

For Inglett to come up with a home run in that situation, it was likely just about the last thing Astros manager Brad Mills expected.

“He’s done a pretty good job in the pinch for them so far this year, we knew that coming up,” Mills said of Inglett, who is batting .326 as a pinch-hitter this season with a Major League-leading 15 pinch-hits. “Expectations kind of go out the window a lot of times in this business anyway.”

After the home run, though, the Astros still led, 5-4. It was then that things really got bad for Lindstrom, who was unable to retire the final five Brewers he faced after retiring the first batter of the inning with a groundout.

Ahead, 0-2, on Rickie Weeks, a misplaced curveball from Lindstrom led to a single. He followed that by getting ahead of Corey Hart with a 1-2 count, before throwing three straight out of the zone.

Finally, a 1-0 sinker to Fielder was driven down the line, scoring Weeks and Hart from second and first.

“I kind of lost my location and just was trying to battle against myself a little bit trying to find the zone,” Lindstrom said. “I was getting ahead of hitters pretty good, but just threw too good of a pitch a couple times in the zone.

“The biggest thing was throwing bad pitches when I was ahead in the count and had pitches to waste.”

Prior to the thrilling finish, it was all about Rodriguez who turned in yet another gem on the mound.

Like the Astros as a whole, Rodriguez has been hot of late, turning around what began as a disappointing season.

Rodriguez went 6 1/3 innings, giving up two runs, one earned, on eight hits while recording seven strikeouts.

“He just didn’t make many mistakes,” Fielder said. “He’s in and out. His curveball is pretty good. His pitches are in the zone, but they’re not quite where you can put good wood on it. He pitched a good game, and I’m glad we were able to come back.”

Despite missing out on the win, Rodriguez has gone 6-1 with a 1.86 ERA over his last eight starts, dating back to June 24. Up to that point, Rodriguez had gone 3-10 with a 6.09 ERA through his first 14 starts of the season.

The difference, Rodriguez said, has been all about location.

“My command on every one of my pitches. I missed a lot of my locations [early in the season],” Rodriguez said. “I feel more comfortable when I use all my pitches. I have better location right now.

As for Friday’s outing?

“I had a great breaking ball today and I used it a lot,” Rodriguez said. “I used [my changeup] only with Hart, because when I have my breaking ball, a good one like today, I use it a lot.”

For the Astros, the loss is their second in a row and their first against the Brewers in more than a month.

Houston entered carrying a winning streak of five games against Milwaukee, dating back to a 5-1 win on June 30 at Miller Park.

“You win some, you lose some,” Lindstrom said. “You’ve got to forget this one and go on to the next one.

“I take responsibility for this. It’s unacceptable having a three-run lead out there facing the bottom of the order and letting them get back in the game like that.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Astros beat 8/6

August 6, 2010 Comments off

Mills feels for injured righty Moehler

MILWAUKEE — After hearing the news that Brian Moehler had torn the tendon off the bone in his left groin area, Astros manager Brad Mills’ first thought had nothing to do with the impact it might have on his team.

Instead, he was more concerned with the effect on Moehler.

“The first thing you think of when you hear something like that is you kind of feel bad for him, it really hurts for him,” Mills said. “You kind of hurt for him a little bit.”

Moehler has been on the disabled list since July 8 with a right groin strain. He is 1-4 with a 4.92 ERA in 20 games, including eight starts for the Astros.

Despite the injury, Moehler told on Thursday that he was not in any pain and even threw a baseball off flat ground without pain. He also said that he plans to work out Friday at Minute Maid Park and rejoin the team on Monday in Houston.

“You’d like to get a chance for him to help out this club because he’s helped us out so much during this year, so you’d like him to be able to continue it,” Mills said. “You think of what he has done for us as a spot starter, as a long man, a middle guy — he is valuable because he can do so many things.”

But while Mills said he and the club would miss Moehler, the Astros manager was not ready to rule out a return for the 38-year-old right-hander just yet.

“We’re going to wait and see when more tests are done,” Mills said. “It’s really too early to speculate on whether he’ll be back this year or whatever.”

Blum makes first start since stint on DL

MILWAUKEE — Making his first start since returning from the disabled list on Tuesday, veteran infielder Geoff Blum was at shortstop on Friday as the Astros opened a three-game series with the Brewers.

As manager Brad Mills noted earlier this week, he expects Blum to share time at shortstop with rookie Angel Sanchez.

“He played there on his rehab assignment and he played there a few games before he was hurt,” Mills said. “We want to get him in there against some of the right-handed pitching. I don’t know if it’s going to be all of them. I don’t know how many games he’s going to be able to sustain playing out there in a row or in a week.”

Blum started 10 games this season at shortstop before he underwent surgery to remove loose bodies from his right elbow in early July.

He began seeing more time at the position following an injury to rookie shortstop Tommy Manzella, but since Blum also went on the DL, the starting shortstop duties fell to Sanchez, who was acquired from the Boston Red Sox on July 1.

Sanchez has performed well in his time with Houston, batting .301 with 14 RBIs in 25 games since the trade.

“With Angel doing so well, it’s not just an absolute must that we need [Blum] to get out there four or five times a week,” Mills said. “Depending on the matchups, depending on the team that we’re playing, depending on the pitchers — a lot of those things are going to enter into it.

“I can’t see [Blum] playing over there more than two or three times a week.”

Prospect Lyles promoted to Triple-A

MILWAUKEE — Like many Astros fans, manager Brad Mills is looking forward to seeing right-handed pitching prospect Jordan Lyles in action. He may not have to wait much longer.

Lyles was promoted Thursday night from Double-A Corpus Christi to Triple-A Round Rock. His Triple-A debut is set for Aug. 10 as the Express host the Sacramento River Cats at the Dell Diamond.

“I haven’t really seen him,” Mills said. “All the reports have been good, though. So I’m kind of anxious to see him.”

Selected 38th overall in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, the 19-year-old Lyles owns a 3.12 ERA in 21 games (20 starts) this season for the Hooks. With the move up to Triple-A, the young right-hander could realistically make his Major League debut by the end of 2010.

If that does indeed happen, Lyles would be the first teenage pitcher to debut in the National League since Doc Gooden in 1984.

“That’s not out of the question,” Mills said. “You see guys who make those steps all the time. They get a couple starts in Triple-A then move up to the next level.

“If he’s as good as advertised, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him move up.”

Manzella plays in first rehab game

MILWAUKEE — Rookie shortstop Tommy Manzella began his rehab assignment on Thursday night, going 1-for-2 with a single up the middle and a caught stealing at Double-A Corpus Christi.

Manzella played five innings and is scheduled to play five games with the Hooks before continuing his rehab assignment at Triple-A Round Rock.

Astros manager Brad Mills was happy for Manzella to be back in action.

“It was good to get him started on the rehab assignment,” Mills said. “I’m sure he was itching to get going. He took one day of BP and wanted to get out on a rehab assignment.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.