Musgrove takes 4-inning start as 'learning point'

Righty believes battling vs. Nats will help him going forward

Musgrove takes 4-inning start as 'learning point'

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- To hear right-hander Joe Musgrove tell it, his four innings of work against the Nationals on Wednesday in an 8-2 victory didn't particularly do anything to enhance his chances to make the Astros' starting rotation.

"Today kind of seemed like a stalemate," said Musgrove, who allowed two runs on three hits. He walked two and struck out two in his 71-pitch outing (41 strikes). "I didn't have my normal location with my four-seam and my slider, which is kind of my bread and butter, my ability to use those two pitches to get ahead of guys. I really didn't have that today. I got behind too many hitters."

It forced Musgrove into battle mode; something he said would hopefully pay dividends down the road.

"It's good for me to go through something like that because I know I'll go through it plenty of times throughout the season," Musgrove said. "It was kind of a good learning point for me to find out how to work out of that."

It was Musgrove's fourth Grapefruit League appearance in his continuing quest for a spot in the Astros' starting rotation -- a place he worked his way into over the last two months of the 2016 season, posting a 4-4 record and 4.06 ERA in 10 starts and one relief appearance.

Musgrove worked a fairly solid first inning Wednesday, a two-out walk to Bryce Harper the only blemish. It was one of two walks he issued to the Nats slugger.

But Musgove was touched up for two runs in the second inning, though he nearly got out of the frame unscathed. However, he didn't get the call on a close two-out, two-strike pitch to Nationals left fielder Michael Taylor, who on the next pitch laced an RBI triple. Stephen Drew followed with a run-scoring single.

"I threw some real good two-strike pitches to [Taylor] that I thought could have gone either way," Musgrove said. "That kind of put me in a hole. It was a good pitch he hit for a triple. I felt like I was running out of options on things to go to; I'd showed him just about everything that at-bat."

Musgrove, a former first-round pick of the Blue Jays in the 2011 Draft, retired seven of the final eight batters he faced, including strikeouts of the last two.

Glenn Sattell is a contributor to MLB.com and covered the Astros on Wednesday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.