JUPITER, Fla. -- In his first start since being named Miami's opening day starter, Ricky Nolasco hardly looked worthy of the honor.
Carlos Pena and Brett Wallace hit back-to-back home runs off Nolasco in the first inning and the Houston Astros added three more long balls in a 9-4 victory over the Miami Marlins on Tuesday.Matt Dominguez, Jason Castro and Chris Carter also homered for the Astros, who had 13 hits. Castro went 3 for 3 with a double.Nolasco gave up seven runs, eight hits and four homers in three innings. He walked two and struck out four."Batting practice is over," Nolasco said. "I just couldn't command the ball anywhere. I was all over the place. "During a pitching change against the New York Mets five days earlier, Nolasco was informed by manager Mike Redmond that he would be the team's opening day starter.Redmond said Nolasco's latest outing did not affect the right-hander's status."It wasn't pretty but I guess he got his pitches in," Redmond said. "He was out of whack. His tempo wasn't very good. And these guys came out swinging."Nolasco continued to work on locating first-pitch fastballs despite Houston's aggressive approach."We're here to get our pitch count up and stay healthy," Nolasco said. "I probably averaged two pitches per batter because they were just hacking. (In season) if I see a team come out hacking like that in the first inning, I'm going to start throwing a lot of off-speed first pitch."Bud Norris allowed four runs and seven hits in 3 2/3 innings. He struck out one and yielded a home run to Kevin Kouzmanoff."For me, it's always about the two-seam and changeup," Norris said. "Trying to get some motion while pitching out of the stretch was important, as well."Norris or Lucas Harrell figures to be Houston's opening day starter."It would be a great honor," Norris said. "Obviously, Lukes and I are backing each other. I'm cheering him on, he's cheering me on. We'll see what happens."Houston's Phil Humber gave up one hit and struck out three while pitching the final five innings to lower his spring ERA to 1.29.Dominguez's two-run homer in the second hit the roof of the Marlins' two-story office building in left. The former Marlins minor league gave Houston a 5-0 lead."There was some wind today, so that might have helped it," Dominguez said. "It's definitely nice to do it to a former team."Kouzmanoff's two-run homer highlighted Miami's four-run third.
Astros owner Jim Crane and Roger Clemens attended the game. Clemens arrived during the sixth inning. He's working as an Astros special spring training instructor. ... Kouzmanoff had his second straight two-hit day to improve his spring batting average to .400. He's trying to earn a spot as a right-handed hitter off the bench. "He's done a nice job," Redmond said. "Every time he has gotten in there, he has contributed." ... Astros CF Rick Ankiel went 2 for 4 with a run to raise his spring average to .435. ... Miami 2B Donovan Solano went 2 for 3 with a run and an RBI. He's now hitting .500 this spring.