WASHINGTON -- The Astros entered Wednesday in a 2-for-29 slump with runners in scoring position after going 0-for-6 in Tuesday's 1-0 loss to the Nationals. Houston was 0-for-9 on Sunday against the Marlins, and 2-for-14 with RISP in the first game of the Nationals series on Monday.
"We're confident those results are going to start coming pretty quickly," manager Brad Mills said. "The more at-bats you get in those situations, the better off everybody is going to be. They're going to be more comfortable and confident, and the more times you get that, the better the percentages are working in your favor."
Mills says he hasn't noticed players putting added pressure on themselves in those situations, though he said it's natural to be a little more amped up with runners in scoring position.
"I think the heart rate is probably going to go up a little bit on everybody, but they'll start to realize how to approach those at-bats -- and there's been a lot of talk to that end the last few days," Mills said. "The series in Miami is when we really started taking notice of it, and it's started to carry over here. We've talked about trying to stay relaxed and within your plan and your approach, and what you're trying to do."
Buck day to day after straining hamstring
WASHINGTON -- Travis Buck's string of consecutive starts likely came to an end at three Wednesday after he left the game against the Nationals in the fourth inning with a mild left hamstring strain. He's listed as day to day.
Buck, starting in left field in place of J.D. Martinez, injured the hamstring while hitting an RBI grounder to first base in the fourth inning. He went to the outfield to play defense between innings, but came back to the dugout when he decided he couldn't go.
"It's pretty cold tonight, and I felt loose during the whole game," he said. "It just happened right when I swung, before I even got out of the box. I just felt it tighten and put an awkward swing, and just tried to run it out. Fortunately enough, we scored a run out of it."
Buck said the hamstring is the same one that's given him problems throughout his career. He said he strained it pretty seriously last year and only missed six days, and that this strain isn't anywhere as bad as the one he had last season.
"It's just the nature of the game," he said. "I want to go out there and continue to play, but you've got to be smart enough. You don't want to make it a DL issue or something bigger than it really is. I'm hoping to take it day by day, but I should be back sooner rather than later."
Bogusevic working hard to find comfort zone
WASHINGTON -- A night out of the starting lineup wasn't actually a night off for outfielder Brian Bogusevic on Tuesday, who went to work in the batting cage and worked with hitting coach Mike Barnett to get back on track. Bogusevic entered Wednesday hitting .133 this year.
"If you're struggling, you can kind of take a step back a little bit and relax, but at the same time you get a lot of work," Bogusevic said. "The last day or two I've gotten a lot of work in the cage, and hopefully it will translate into the game [Wednesday]."
For Bogusevic, work in the cage means more than just getting as many reps as possible. It's about the constant battle of trying to find a batting stance and an approach that works for him. That also means spending some time looking at video.
"It's looking for comfort," he said. "Whether you're working on one thing, being wider or more narrow [in your stance], you're trying to find comfort. That's what I've tried to do the last couple of days in the cage, and I do feel more comfortable."
Cruz impressing with work ethic, results
WASHINGTON -- Considering how much trouble hard-throwing reliever Rhiner Cruz had throwing strikes early in Spring Training, it seemed unlikely the Rule 5 Draft pick would make the club, much less make a good early impression on manager Brad Mills and pitching coach Doug Brocail.
Cruz, who can touch 100 mph, threw a scoreless inning Tuesday to extend his consecutive scoreless-innings streak to begin his career to 5 1/3 innings. Mills admitted Cruz had all kinds of mechanical issues early in the spring that the Astros had to slowly work through, including re-positioning him in the middle of the pitching rubber.
"It was everything from where he was on the rubber, his setup with his hands, his setup with his body and everything else," Mills said. "It seemed to work in Spring Training. The first few outings were kind of rough, and he slowly got better and better and continued to work.
"You have to tip your hat to not only [Brocail] and [bullpen coach] Craig Bjornson, but also to Rhiner for being willing to work every day on the little things and continue to do it and get better. So far, he's been throwing the ball extremely well."
The Astros even had Cruz throw with his eyes closed in Spring Training in order to get a better feel for his release point.
Astros to honor Jackie's legacy on Friday
WASHINGTON -- The Astros will honor Jackie Robinson, who broke baseball's color barrier 65 years ago, with several festivities at Minute Maid Park on Friday when they play the Dodgers. The Astros' festivities will follow Major League Baseball's celebration honoring Robinson's legacy, which took place in home ballparks league-wide on April 15.
The club will host a pregame reception for African-American community leaders. Members of the Texas Southern University debate team will speak about Robinson's footprint on America's pastime. Special Jackie Robinson reception guests will include current players Justin Maxwell and Wesley Wright, coaches Dave Clark and Bobby Meacham, former Astros player Jimmy Wynn, and Baseball Hall of Famer Monte Irvin, along with past Jackie Robinson Foundation scholarship recipients.
Astros Urban Youth Academy members, selected based on their leadership on and off the field, will take the field with Astros players during the national anthem. Each member will wear T-shirts specially designed to represent one of Robinson's life principles derived from "Jackie's Nine: Jackie Robinson's Values to Live By," written by Sharon Robinson, Jackie's daughter.
Fans can join the celebration and take advantage of special Jackie Robinson Day ticket pricing by visiting astros.com/jackie and using the special ticket password: jackie.