DETROIT -- For the first time this season, Astros slugger Chris Carter was in the cleanup spot in the batting order for Monday's opener vs. the Tigers.
Carter entered the series on somewhat of a hot streak, going 3-for-8 with a double, a triple, a home run and four RBIs in the team's previous three games. Carter had been hitting primarily fifth or sixth while scuffling through the first five weeks of the season.
"He just told me it was the best decision I made all year," manager Bo Porter said jokingly. "If he's right, it's a good thing."
Carter told Porter prior to the game he checked the lineup by looking toward the bottom for his name before scrolling up with his eyes to see him listed in the No. 4 spot.
"He's really started to swing the bat well," Porter said. "He's starting to drive the ball. He was in a funk there for a while. We all know this guy probably has the most raw power on our team. If we can get him going in the middle of our lineup, it will really, really help the lineup.
"I feel like our offense is really starting to come around. Our struggles are behind us. There's a lot of deep counts, and guys are not really missing some of the pitches we were missing early in the year."
Jason Castro, Jose Altuve, Marc Krauss and Jesus Guzman alternated in the No. 4 spot through the first 16 games, with Altuve getting most of the at-bats there. Rookie George Springer had started 13 consecutive games in the cleanup spot before Matt Dominguez was there for a couple of games. Springer is now batting sixth.
"I love the fact we kind of got him out of the four-hole and in a spot in the lineup that once he takes off, we're fine leaving him in the six-hole, in an RBI position," Porter said of Springer.
Martinez excited for reunion with Astros
DETROIT -- J.D. Martinez has found a home in Detroit, but the former Astros outfielder was looking forward to seeing some of his friends and former teammates this week during the Tigers' series against Houston.
"It's going to be exciting seeing the guys again," said Martinez, who was drafted and developed by the Astros before being released in March. "It's weird. You look across and everybody is looking at you and waving at you. And you want to go over there and hang with them and say, 'Hi,' but you can't. I can't explain it. It's just exciting."
Martinez was called up by Detroit after hitting .308 with 10 homers and 22 RBIs in 17 games at Triple-A Toledo. He wasn't in the lineup for Monday's series opener, but he was hitting .278 with four RBIs in 18 games off the bench.
Martinez said being on a winning team with a deep lineup has removed some of the pressure he felt with the Astros, where he often felt a burden to drive in runs.
"There's so many guys in the lineup here that you don't feel like you have that pressure on you," he said. "We have a really good lineup over there, but it's different. These are experienced guys, they're the guys that have done it. You kind of just go out there and if there's guys on, you try hard to get them -- but if not, it's not the end of the world. I know the guy behind me is just as good, and he's probably going to get him. When you're winning, there's a lot less pressure."
And Martinez admitted he was caught off guard when he discovered the down-to-earth natures of stars like Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer.
"All these guys have been around the game for so long and done so much," he said. "You think they would have egos and stuff, and it's the complete opposite. None of the guys have egos. They're all like little kids. It was the coolest thing, talking to Miggy and the way he was and the way he talks. He was so humble. I had an out-of-body experience talking to him. You're like, 'Wow, is this really the Triple Crown winner?'"
Martinez credits much of his success this year to the adjustments he made in winter ball and again in Spring Training, where he worked on keeping his bat in the zone longer.
"Once I got my timing, I felt like, 'OK, I got it now,' and it kind of rode into the season," he said.
Motor City series a homecoming for Bass
DETROIT -- This week's series against the Tigers at Comerica Park marks a homecoming for Astros reliever Anthony Bass, who grew up in the Detroit suburb of Trenton and attended Wayne State University in Detroit. He had played at Comerica in high school, but Monday marked his first appearance in the ballpark as a Major Leaguer.
"It's pretty surreal," Bass said. "I'm just excited to be back here. To be back here and play against the team I rooted for growing up is pretty cool."
Bass, obtained by the Astros in a trade with the Padres in December, said he had tons of family members and friends from high school and college -- as well as some former coaches -- coming to watch him play at different points throughout the series.
His favorite Tigers player growing up was Cecil Fielder, who he saw play at old Tiger Stadium.
"I just used to watch them in the postseason, because it seems like they were always there," Bass said. "Being from this area, it was always fun. I remember when I was a kid, getting my first baseball [at Tiger Stadium]. I grew up a big Tigers fan, so it was cool watching them play back in the day."
Hunter understands Springer's growing pains
DETROIT -- Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter, who was the favorite player of Astros rookie George Springer when he was growing up, said the struggling outfielder is simply learning to adjust to life in the Major Leagues. Springer entered Monday hitting .185 with five RBIs in 65 at-bats, but he hit a second-inning single off Max Scherzer.
"That's what he's supposed to do," Hunter said. "It's time for him to make adjustments. That's when you know he's a big leaguer, when he makes the adjustments. How's he going to finish? The first half, they're going to figure him out, and he's going to have to figure them out and battle. If he has a great second half, that shows that he's going to be a big leaguer.
"Just let him go through his struggles and find his way out of it. You have to. You have to expect that from a young guy who's trying to learn."
Springer and Hunter were introduced to each other by Astros manager Bo Porter during Spring Training a year ago. Springer watched Hunter play as a Minor Leaguer in the late 1990s in New Britain, Conn., which is Springer's hometown. Springer had actually originally met Hunter when he was 8 years old.
"I'm glad they brought him up and let him get a cup of coffee and know what it's all about," Hunter said. "Let him see some pitching and how they do things up here. How else is he going to learn?"
Porter highlights positives in team meeting
DETROIT -- Astros manager Bo Porter, admittedly not big on team meetings, said he gathered his club Friday inside the news conference room at Minute Maid Park to highlight some of the positive things he saw during the first month of the season.
"I said this to our team the other day when we talked, there's a very thin line of margin between winning and losing a Major League baseball game," Porter said. "As we move forward as an organization, a lot of people look at the number of losses, but I firmly believe we're learning how to win. … As we continue to move forward, all of us are going to reap the benefits of what it is we've been through last year and in the early stages of this year."
The Astros entered Monday at 10-21, but they had blown seven save opportunities and were 1-4 when tied after the eighth inning. In other words, Porter believes his club has let some winnable games slip away.
"I wanted our guys to realize, if you look at the record, our record is what we saw we are -- but I wanted to point out a lot of the positives that are taking place throughout the course of the year and again point to the small margin of victory, a break point here, a break point there, and our record would be totally different," he said. "We get caught up in the overall results and we don't realize this is the course of a six-month season, and I wanted to make sure, as team, none of us lose sight of that."
Porter said it was his first team meeting since the beginning of the season.
• Scott Feldman, who's on the disabled list with right biceps tendinitis, is scheduled to throw a bullpen on Tuesday and should return to the rotation Friday in Baltimore.
• Reliever Matt Albers, who's on the DL with right shoulder tendinitis, is scheduled to throw in the bullpen this week and could be activated by this weekend in Baltimore.