03/27/08 4:03 PM ET
Backe strong until sixth in final outing
Houston defense and relief unresolved in last Florida start
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
at Dunedin, Fla.
Thursday, March 27
Astros at the plate: Mark Loretta, serving as the designated hitter against the Blue Jays, launched a 3-2 pitch into the tree beyond the left-field wall in the sixth inning for a two-run homer. Prior to Loretta's home run, outfielder Jose Cruz Jr. drove in Houston's first run with an RBI double. Darin Erstad went 2-for-2 with a walk.
Blue Jays at the plate: Outfielder Buck Coats, who was awarded a spot on Toronto's Opening Day roster this week, contributed a sixth-inning solo home run, his second long ball of the spring. Infielder Hector Luna followed suit with a three-run shot in the sixth that bounced off a tree and back into left field. Luna added an RBI double in the eighth.
Astros on the mound: Houston right-hander Brandon Backe turned in 5 1/3 innings, surrendering six runs on 11 hits against Toronto. Backe, who finished with 95 pitches (65 strikes), had two strikeouts and two walks, as well as two home runs allowed in the outing.
Blue Jays on the mound: Toronto right-hander Dustin McGowan, who will open the season as the club's No. 3 starter, spun seven innings for the Blue Jays. McGowan allowed three runs on four hits with four strikeouts and four walks, including three free passes in the fourth inning. McGowan finished with 104 pitches, including 60 strikes.
Grapefruit League records: Astros 12-17-1; Blue Jays 11-16.
Up next for the Astros: Left-hander Wandy Rodriguez is scheduled to start for Houston in a 7:05 p.m. ET tilt against the Detroit Tigers on Friday night at Minute Maid Park in Houston. Detroit will counter with right-hander Jeremy Bonderman.
Up next for the Blue Jays: Toronto will put Florida in the rearview mirror on Friday, when the team heads to Philadelphia for a 7:05 p.m. ET exhibition game against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Randy Wells and Brian Wolfe, among others, are scheduled to pitch.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.