ANAHEIM -- Astros manager Bo Porter seems to have settled on Jose Altuve and Justin Maxwell at the top of the lineup. The pair batted in the 1-2 spots in the order for the fifth consecutive game Saturday, and hitting behind Altuve is an ideal spot for him, says Maxwell.
"For me, it makes me get ready on deck," Maxwell said. "He's not playing around when he gets up there. He's coming to swing the stick. It helps me because I can't be lethargic on my approach. He always keeps me on edge because it could be the first pitch of the at-bat when he gets a hit, or the seventh or eighth pitch. He does a really good job, he's got a great approach, and I try to mimic him in batting practice."
Altuve entered Saturday hitting .364 with five multihit games. He ranked tied for fifth in the American League with 16 hits and tied for sixth in multihit games. Altuve reached base in nine of the Astros' first 10 games this year.
The 6-foot-5 Maxwell can only marvel at what the 5-foot-6 Altuve has accomplished.
"I think the first time I ever heard his name was when I was rehabbing from shoulder surgery [in 2011], and I just happened to check MiLB.com to see what was going on in the Minor Leagues, and I see this Altuve guy is hitting .380 in Double-A," Maxwell said. "I clicked on his numbers, and now it's kind of weird I'm playing with him now. He's got incredible hand-eye coordination. Any time he takes a swing, he puts the barrel on the ball. He's fast, too, so he gets a lot of infield hits and he's got power."
Castro makes fifth straight start behind the plate
ANAHEIM -- For the first time in nearly three years, Jason Castro was in Saturday's lineup as the starting catcher for the fifth consecutive game, which ties his career high for consecutive games behind the plate. Castro last caught five games in a row June 26-30, 2010, shortly after he made his Major League debut. A major knee injury that cost him the 2011 season limited his playing time last year.
Backup catcher Carlos Corporan has been catching Lucas Harrell's starts in the spring and the first two games of the season, but with a left-hander pitching Sunday for the Angels in a day game, manager Bo Porter tabbed Castro on Saturday and will put the switch-hitting Corporan in the lineup on Sunday.
"It's a great feeling," Castro said. "I was actually just talking with [catching instructor Jeff] Murphy about it yesterday and joked with him about how it's the first time in like two years where I've been able to catch more than three games in a row.
"I'm really happy with the way my health has been kind of progressing over the course of the offseason and Spring Training and so far this year. I feel really good, not even just like I'm able to do it, but I feel just as fresh today as I did at the start of Spring Training. I'm really happy with that progress."
Castro's improved health has also paid dividends defensively, where he's been better at blocking balls this season. He said his reaction when it comes to blocking balls in the dirt is starting to feel more natural instead of something he has to think about.
"I had a lot of work to do coming into the spring," Castro said. "From a physical standpoint, I was healthy enough to start attack blocking, and then it was just about getting reps. I had early work every day at 7 a.m. with Murphy and the other catchers in the mornings [this spring]. That's when we put our work in and I was really happy with how that progression went."
Barnes treats Astros with In-N-Out Burger
ANAHEIM -- Astros outfielder Brandon Barnes, who grew up in the shadows of Angel Stadium, wanted his teammates to experience the best of Southern California while they were in his hometown.
Barnes gave the keys of his car to one of the clubhouse attendants prior to Saturday's game and had him deliver 24 double-doubles from the famous California-based hamburger chain, In-N-Out Burger. As far as Barnes is concerned, they're the best burgers around.
"I know a lot of guys haven't had it before and it's a good thing to bring it in," Barnes said. "When you're on the road, it's hard to go places when you don't have a car and you have to rely on a cab. I have a car here, so I thought I'd bring some in and help everyone out with lunch and stuff."
Only the players who got to the ballpark early got to enjoy the burgers, and so did the entire coaching staff, including manager Bo Porter.
"Everybody loves In-N-Out burger," Barnes said. "It's my favorite burger, so I thought I'd bring it in."
Barnes has made similar gestures to help out his team in the past. Suring Spring Training last year, he fouled off a ball in batting practice that shattered the watch of former manager Brad Mills, and the next day Barnes showed up with a new watch for the skipper.