KISSIMMEE, Florida (AP) Luis Valbuena hit a two-run homer and a run-scoring single, helping the Houston Astros beat the St. Louis Cardinals 6-3 in an exhibition game on Friday.
Marwin Gonzalez connected against St. Louis left-hander Jaime Garcia with one out in the first. Garcia then walked last year’s American League Rookie of the Year Carlos Correa on four pitches before Valbuena drove the next pitch over the right-field wall for a 3-0 lead.
The Cardinals scored two in the fourth, but Preston Tucker‘s homer in the bottom half made it 4-2.
Jose Altuve doubled in a run in the fifth and Valbuena padded the lead with an RBI single later in the inning.
Correa, who went 1 for 2 in his spring debut, said he’s feeling good at the plate.
“I feel like I’m seeing the ball well and that’s all that matters,” he said. “The preparation has been there. I’ve been very confident in my preparation and am focused on the season.”
St. Louis second baseman Kolten Wong went 2 for 3 a day after agreeing to a $25.5 million, five-year contract.
Houston’s Jon Singleton, who is competing for the first base job, entered in the fifth inning and struck out in both of his at-bats.
Cardinals: Garcia yielded two hits and three runs in two innings in his first outing this spring. He certainly wasn’t happy with the results, but tried to put the outing in perspective.
“Obviously every time I take the mound I’m competitive out there and I want to get the job done,” Garcia said. “But at the same time you’re also cautious that it’s the first game back and you’re trying to get your pitches.”
Astros: Wandy Rodriguez, who returned to Houston on a minor-league deal this offseason, was solid in his spring debut. He allowed one hit and struck out four in two innings.
Rodriguez spent eight seasons in Houston before he was traded to Pittsburgh in 2012. Rodriguez, who is Houston’s franchise leader for career strikeouts by a left-hander with 1,093, said it felt good to be back on the mound in an Astros uniform after four years away.
“He knows how to prepare himself,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “He’s trying to make a team. It’s good to have a veteran that comes back home … and is prepared. I liked how fast he worked. He was efficient.”
Cardinals: Right fielder Stephen Piscotty went 2 for 2 with a stolen base. Piscotty is trying to get back on track after missing a couple of workouts recently because of a stomach illness.
Singer Marc Anthony attended Friday’s game. The Grammy award winner launched a sports management company called Magnus Sports in November. The first client he signed was Aroldis Chapman, who was traded from the Reds to the Yankees in December.
He watched Houston’s batting practice and met and took pictures with several Astros.
Correa told Anthony that he used one of his songs as his walk-up music last season and the singer said he’d make him a personalized one for this season.
“That really means a lot,” Correa said. “So I’m really looking forward to that.”
Cardinals: LHP Marco Gonzalez will face Miami’s Wei-Yin Chen when the Cardinals host the Marlins on Saturday.
Astros: RHP Collin McHugh is scheduled to pitch for the Astros on Saturday when they host the Mets, who will send Robert Gsellman to the mound.