Tune-ups done, Panama ready
Atencio, Nieto sharp but defense sloppy in exhibition loss to Astros
By Anthony DiComo / MLB.com
at Kissimmee, Fla.
Thursday, March 5
Panama at the plate: Team Panama's four-run, second-inning rally was sparked by an error, but it didn't come without some timely hitting, as well. Conception Rodriguez and Ruben Tejada both hit run-scoring doubles, and Damaso Espino added an RBI single. Ruben Rivera, formerly of the Yankees, Padres and three other big league teams, added a solo homer in the third.
Astros at the plate: Jason Michaels was the only Astros player to touch Panamanian pitching in the early innings, hitting a solo homer to lead off the second. He drove in another run with an infield single in the fifth, followed by Kazuo Matsui knocking in one of his own with a single in that same inning. Chris Johnson capped the rally with a two-run double.
Panama on the mound: Starter Abraham Atencio kept the Astros mostly at bay over two innings, allowing one run on three hits. Arquimedes Nieto then entered the game and retired six straight Astros, all of them on ground balls.
Astros on the mound: Brian Moehler's start turned sour in a four-run second inning, keyed by an error and two doubles. Moehler allowed five runs in all, four of them earned. Closer Jose Valverde fared better in his inning of work, allowing a single and nothing else.
Up next: Through with their World Baseball Classic exhibitions, the Astros will make the short trip to Lake Buena Vista, Fla., on Friday, where they will take on the Braves in a 6:05 p.m. CT start. Fernando Nieve will start for the Astros, opposite left-hander Jo-Jo Reyes.
Team Panama will catch a flight out of Florida, in preparation for their Saturday evening Classic debut against Team Puerto Rico. Left-hander Bruce Chen is scheduled to start for Panama in a 6 p.m. local time start.
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.