Latos improves significantly, Marlins and Astros tie 1-1

JUPITER, Fla. (AP) Mat Latos followed his worst start of the spring with his best, helping the Miami Marlins play to a 1-1 tie with the Houston Astros.

Five days after allowing nine runs in three innings to the Mets, Latos rebounded by limiting the Astros to one run in 5 1-3 innings.

”I think you see night and day,” Latos said. ”I couldn’t get an out the other day. My last outing my mechanics were completely off. Today everything was downhill.”

While Latos’ improvement was significant, it left room for improvement. He walked two, threw two wild pitches and give up six hits.

Miami’s defense helped Latos, too.

Second baseman Dee Gordon made a sliding backhanded pick of Hank Conger’s grounder to start an inning-ending double play in the second inning.

Two innings later, with Carlos Correa on second, Marwin Gonzalez lined a single to right. Giancarlo Stanton’s one-hop throw home arrived in catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s mitt two strides ahead of Correa for the final out of that inning.

Conger made sure Miami’s defense couldn’t do anything about Latos’ 1-0 changeup in the fifth, sending it over the right field wall, tying the game at 1.

Houston manager A. J. Hinch said Roberto Hernandez strengthened his chances of claiming the fifth spot in Houston’s rotation by allowing only one run in five innings.

”He had a nice game by getting through some very difficult jams and also getting a lot of ground balls,” Hinch said.

STARTING TIME

Marlins: With his scheduled start on Friday washed out, the Marlins had Brad Hand throw in a minor league game on Saturday at Miami’s spring training complex. Hand is expected to make the Marlins opening-day roster as a reliever.

Astros: Hinch said the selection of Hernandez or Asher Wojciechowski as the clubs fifth starter may come down to whether he feels the Astros need someone with Major League experience in their rotation.

”You’ve got an experienced guy in Roberto who knows just about every situation possible that could come up in a game,” Hinch said. ”You’ve got Wojo, who’s arguably pitched as good as anybody in our camp and he has no experience at the major league level, so there’s a little bit of an unknown there. That doesn’t make it worse, it just makes it unknown.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Marlins: Pitcher Jarred Cosart is expected to throw a bullpen session on Sunday and Miami will decide afterward whether he’s ready to make one more spring start. The Marlins scratched him from Friday’s scheduled start because of a blister.

Astros: Reliever Josh Fields has thrown off flat ground the past couple days but his sore hamstring has kept him off the mound. ”From what I understand he’s making steady progress every day, which is a good sign,” Hinch said.

Outfielder L. J. Hoes left the game after being hit on the wrist with a pitch. Hinch said an x-ray of the wrist was not in the club’s immediate plans.

LEADING OFF

With Jose Altuve not making the trip, Hinch chose to bat right fielder George Springer in the lead-off spot, where he singled in four at-bats. ”I like him having the most at-bats of anybody on our team – today’s lineup for sure,” Hinch said.

UP NEXT

Marlins: travels to Viera where Tom Koehler will get the start against the Nationals.

Houston: Scott Feldman will start when Nathan Eovaldi and the Yankees come to Kissimmee.