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Astros best Express, but impressed by Pence03/30/2007 12:24 AM ET
By Michael Point / Special to MLB.com
ROUND ROCK, Texas -- While an assortment of Double-A players finished up the franchise's Spring Training schedule in Florida, the Astros' probable Opening Day lineup took on its Triple-A affiliate in front of 10,252 fans who cheered equally for both teams. The Astros emerged with a 6-4 victory and their manager's approval.
"We looked good," Phil Garner declared.
Jason Jennings started for the Astros and went four innings, giving up three hits and one earned run while looking solid after a shaky beginning. He threw 60 pitches, 40 for strikes, but said he could have continued without a problem.
"It was great to get a regular-game feel, and that helped my energy level a little bit," Jennings said. "I definitely could have gone deeper into the game, but we had decided in advance how long I'd go so I could still have something left for Tuesday."
The Express put two runs on the scoreboard in the first inning on a bases-loaded walk and a sacrifice fly as Jennings struggled to find his rhythm.
"I didn't make bad pitches," he said, "but crazy things happen in this game, and a bloop and a bad hop made it look worse than it was."
Jennings picked up momentum as the game progressed, striking out the side in the fourth.
The Astros responded with a run in the top of the second on long drives for doubles by Carlos Lee -- who also had a stolen base in the game -- and Luke Scott to make it a 2-1 game. Scott, a Round Rock fan favorite who signed autographs for 15 minutes on the way to clubhouse, said that his shot to the wall was business as usual.
"I love playing here and always have," Scott said. "It was great to be able to give the fans something and get ready for Opening Day at the same time."
Express center fielder Hunter Pence made his Triple-A debut at Dell Diamond an impressive one. In the third, he drove a Jennings pitch 400 feet, bouncing it off the center-field wall for a double. He improved on that in fifth, blasting a majestic two-run homer off Brad Lidge.
Express manager Jackie Moore was pleased but not surprised by Pence's performance.
"He's going to be very exciting for all of us here, and that includes his teammates and his manager," Moore said. "He's a special player, and I think everybody got to see why tonight."
The Astros took the lead in the fourth on five runs, two coming on a bases-loaded double by Adam Everett. After that, Garner began substituting his bench players to keep them sharp for the regular season, which begins on Monday at Minute Maid Park.
Dave Borkowski was ultimately credited with the win, but he may have been happier about the single to center he stroked in the top of the eighth inning.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.