From no-hit­ter to no-brainer

Ten runs in last four in­nings make up for no hits in first six.

Houston Chronicle Sunday - - SPORTS SUN­DAY - Jake Ka­plan

OAK­LAND, Calif. — The Astros avoided po­ten­tial dis­as­ter Satur­day when X-rays on star short­stop Car­los Cor­rea’s right hand came back neg­a­tive.

Cor­rea was di­ag­nosed with a right hand con­tu­sion. He suf­fered the in­jury when he was hit by a 94 mph fast­ball from Oak­land Ath­let­ics righthander Frankie Mon­tas in the ninth in­ning of the Astros’ 10-6 win at the Coli­seum.

“Good news, ob­vi­ously,” Cor­rea said. “I thought it was go­ing to be a lot worse.”

It’s un­cer­tain when Cor­rea will next play, but he said “hope­fully, it doesn’t have to be more than one day.”

“We will see how it heals,” he said. “Ob­vi­ously, I will be do­ing my best to be able to go back out there as soon as I can.”

In se­ri­ous pain as soon as he was hit, Cor­rea clutched his hand and took a knee in the grassy area be­hind home plate, where he was tended to by Astros trainer Scott Bar­ringer and man­ager A.J. Hinch. Af­ter help­ing Cor­rea off the field, Hinch was soon forced to scram­ble to find a pinch run­ner and then de­cide who would play where de­fen­sively in the bot­tom of the ninth.

Hinch had emp­tied his bench ear­lier in the game by pinch-hit­ting Brian McCann for Evan Gat­tis and Mar­win Gon­za­lez for Yuli Gur­riel in the sixth and pinch-run­ning Josh Red­dick for Car­los Bel­tran in the eighth. Af­ter Cor­rea was hit, start­ing pitcher Mike Fiers ran up to the vis­i­tors’ club­house to grab his cleats, and Hinch used him as his run­ner.

“I mean, I’m the best run­ner and fastest run­ner, so might as well put me in, right?” Fiers said, smil­ing. “(Dal­las) Keuchel ran up and got his cleats. He was the first one with his cleats on. But in the back of (Hinch’s) mind, he wanted me. And I was ready to do it.”

Hinch asked for vol­un­teers to play first base in the bot­tom of the ninth, and Red­dick stepped up. The 30-year-old out­fielder said he last manned first base when he was 19 and play­ing in a sum­mer col­le­giate league. He used the first base­man’s mitt of Gon­za­lez, who moved to third base while Alex Breg­man moved from third to short­stop. The Astros were forced to sac­ri­fice the des­ig­nated hit­ter spot.

Giles throws 8th, Gregerson 9th

Astros closer Ken Giles pitched the eighth in­ning of Satur­day’s 10-6 win, and setup man Luke Gregerson pitched the ninth. Wait, what? Man­ager A.J. Hinch did his best to dis­pel any closer con­tro­versy af­ter the game, but the Astros’ ninth-in­ning sit­u­a­tion is cer­tainly one worth mon­i­tor­ing. Giles al­lowed a run in his in­ning Satur­day, his third con­sec­u­tive out­ing in which he failed to record a clean frame.

Hinch’s ex­pla­na­tion for the or­der in which he used his re­liev­ers Satur­day checks out, es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing he has said since the start of spring train­ing he re­serves the right to use Giles in high-lev­er­age sit­u­a­tions ahead of the ninth in­ning.

In Satur­day’s case, Hinch tabbed Giles to pitch the bot­tom of the eighth with the Astros hold­ing an 8-5 lead. How­ever, Giles was warm­ing up in the bullpen be­fore the Astros scored four runs in the top half of the eighth. Hinch said he was pre­par­ing to use Giles with the Astros trail­ing 5-4, and once the pitcher was warmed up, he wanted to use him.

Giles al­lowed a lead­off triple to Jaff Decker, who scored on a Matt Joyce sac­ri­fice fly. Gregerson be­gan to warm up for the save sit­u­a­tion and still pitched once the Astros tacked on two more runs to make it 10-6 head­ing to the bot­tom of the ninth. Gregerson had a 1-2-3 in­ning.

“I’ve said time and time again I don’t re­ally care what the or­der is,” Hinch said. “Ken’s still go­ing to fin­ish most of the games. But that’s what I mean by ‘most of the games.’ ”

Aoki get­ting ABs vs. left­handers

Although it was ex­pected com­ing into the sea­son Nori Aoki would play al­most ex­clu­sively against righthanders, Astros man­ager A.J. Hinch ac­tu­ally views the left­handed-hit­ting out­fielder as es­sen­tially pla­toon neu­tral.

Aoki’s start in left field on Satur­day against the A’s Sean Manaea was al­ready his third against a left­hander this sea­son. Some of Aoki’s us­age against same-sided pitch­ing is a prod­uct of how many left­ies — seven starters in 12 games — the Astros have faced early in the sea­son.

But com­ing into Satur­day, Aoki was a ca­reer .307/.365/.378 hit­ter against left­handers (693 at-bats) com­pared to a .278/.349/.392 hit­ter against righthanders (1,707 at-bats). He played Satur­day over Josh Red­dick, whom Hinch has said he will play against cer­tain left­handers but not oth­ers based on the op­pos­ing pitcher’s style. The same goes for Aoki. “There are cer­tain styles of left­ies that I like for each par­tic­u­lar lefty (hit­ter), but he puts up tough at-bats re­gard­less of hand­ed­ness,” Hinch said of Aoki.

Odds and ends

With two stolen bases Satur­day, Jose Al­tuve moved into sole pos­ses­sion of sixth place on the Astros’ ca­reer list with 204. Hav­ing passed Hall of Famer Jeff Bag­well (202), Al­tuve has as his next tar­gets Terry Puhl (217) and Joe Mor­gan (219). …

The Astros’ 8-4 start is their best through 12 games since 2006, when they had an iden­ti­cal record.

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