Reinhold Matay

Houston Astros First Base Competition Heats Up

The Astros first base competition just got a lot more interesting

The Houston roster was split on Sunday as half of the team played at home against the Blue Jays, and the other half made the trek to face the Pirates. Both Houston clubs came out with victories, and with more opportunities for at-bats, Matt Duffy, A.J. Reed, Tyler White and Jon Singleton all produced at the plate, adding some fire to the first base competition. 

Duffy had the biggest day at the dish, going 2-for-4 with two home runs and three rbi. Through four games (and just 8 at-bats), Duffy has gone deep three times. Tyler White also went deep, his first of the spring, as the team's DH. He managed to go 1-for-4 with two rbi on the day. Both Duffy and White present an interesting wrinkle into the first base equation as both players are capable of manning third as well. With Luis Valbuena potentially being used to a lesser extent in 2016, having that depth, whether at the big league level or in Fresno, is a nice problem to have. 

The frontrunner for the job, Singleton, was the only one of the four players vying for the spot to stay at home to face Toronto. He collected his first two hits of spring, a solo homer in the 5th, and a rbi double that drove home two in the 8th on a 2-for-4 afternoon. The club's top prospect, Reed, broke out in a big way against the Pirates, going 3-for-5 with an rbi and a run scored. He is the only one of the quartet that did not go deep. 

Darkhorse first base candidate Preston Tucker went 2-for-4 with a double and is batting .333 in the early going. If Tucker's bat continues to produce, he'll likely find himself in Houston come opening day sporting a number of gloves. His newfound versatility could be the key for Tucker to secure a spot in Houston for 2016. 

On the mound, Scott Feldman pitched two perfect innings while striking out one against the Blue Jays' B Squad. Kevin Pillar and Ryan Goins were the two regulars in the lineup, but AL MVP Josh Donaldson, all-star Troy Tulowitzki, bat-flipper Jose Bautista and powerhouse Edwin Encarnacion all received the day off. Feldman was exceptional, but his performance should be taken with a grain of salt. Asher Wojciechowski followed Feldman with two perfect innings of his own, striking out two. Brady Rodgers was the only Houston pitcher to give up a run in the 7-1 victory after former Phillies prospect Domonic Brown tripled with one out in the 5th and the following batter, former Astro Matt Dominguez, singled him home. The only other hit allowed by the Astros in this game came off Jordan Jankowski in the 8th. Neal Cotts and Kevin Chapman also worked full innings, striking out a batter each. 

The matchup with Pittsburgh was easily the more exciting of the two games, as the Astros came back from a late 8-6 deficit, scoring five unanswered in the final two frames to win by an 11-8 final. Reed singled to lead off the top of the 8th, and then White hit his bomb to right. With one out Alex Bregman drew a walk, and Teoscar Hernandez hit the fourth of five Astros homers of the game to bring him home. Duffy added his second home run on a solo shot in the 9th.

Brad Peacock got the start in the game and lasted 1.2 innings, giving up two runs on three hits and three walks while striking out one. The bottom of the first started poorly for Peacock, who missed much of last season with an intercostal strain. The 28-year-old right-hander walked Josh Harrison to begin the game. Harrison then stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Luckily, Peacock would only allow one run in that first inning. 

On tap for Monday: The Astros travel to face the New York Yankees. Mike Fiers will get the start for Houston in his first action of the spring. 

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