05/02/12 12:30 AM ET
Altuve makes first start of year in leadoff role
By Brian McTaggart / MLB.com
"I was playing around with [the lineup] in the clubhouse and said, 'Have you ever hit leadoff?' And he said, 'Yeah, I hit leadoff for two years [in the Minor Leagues],'" manager Brad Mills said. "I said, 'I think you're going to be a good fit for us today.' He agreed, and I'm anxious to see how he hits at the top of the lineup."
Carlos Lee, who sprained his ankle on Friday, returned to the lineup Tuesday in his customary No. 4 spot, with Jed Lowrie hitting second and J.D. Martinez hitting third. Matt Downs, who's homered in two consecutive games, started at third in place of Chris Johnson, and Justin Maxwell was in center in place of Schafer.
Altuve, who hit an infield single in his first at-bat, entered Tuesday ranked first in the National League with 12 multi-hit games and was third in batting average.
"He started the season hitting eighth and he was a great eighth hitter and it didn't stop," Mills said. "He kept swinging the bat so well, we said, 'You know what, we need put him back in the two spot,' and he's done exceedingly well. We'll put him at the top of the order on a short-term basis and there's no reason to think he won't succeed."
Left oblique strain forces Schafer out of lineup
HOUSTON -- Astros center fielder Jordan Schafer, who's approaching a club record for reaching base in the most consecutive games to start a season, was out of the lineup Tuesday against the Mets with what he described as a left oblique strain.
The injury, which he suffered on the bases Monday, isn't serious, and manager Brad Mills says he expects Schafer to start Wednesday afternoon's game.
"He's fine," Mills said. "Just as I was walking out here [to the dugout to meet the media pregame Tuesday], I heard he took swings in the cage and was fine. I thought it was a good day to give him a day off and get [Justin] Maxwell some at-bats. He hasn't had a start here in almost two weeks. We wanted to get him in there."
Schafer went 2-for-4 on Monday and has reached base in 23 consecutive games to start the season, which is two shy of Dennis Menke's club record of 25 set in 1969. Schafer was grimacing after stealing second base in the eighth inning Monday.
"When I went down to first base and I started leading off, I could feel my oblique was a little bit tight, and diving back into the bag, I felt something in the oblique," Schafer said. "It's still a bit tight today. Obviously, I want to play every day. If I can't help us win or I can't perform, it's not going to help us."
Myers embracing closer role, having success
HOUSTON -- At this time last year, the Astros' bullpen was a mess. The team had blown seven off its first 11 save chances, and closer Brandon Lyon was headed to the disabled list with season-ending surgery, making Mark Melancon the closer.
With Brett Myers handling the closing duties this year, the Astros have converted six of nine save chances through Tuesday, with Myers going 6-for-6 after pitching a 1-2-3 ninth inning Tuesday against the Mets. Opposing hitters are batting .115 against Myers this year.
"He's done a good job," manager Brad Mills said. "There's no reason to think he wouldn't [pitch well], even though he hadn't done it a whole lot. He's embraced it from Day 1 and continues to throw the ball well, and it's nice to have that at the end of the game and hopefully we can get over the hump and score enough runs to get to the ball to him to utilize him more."
Myers, who was moved to the closer role early in the spring after making 66 starts for Houston the previous two seasons, has fully embraced closing.
"I like coming to the ballpark every night knowing there's a chance I'll play," he said. "It's fun because I get a chance to go out there and pitch, and I like doing that. Some days aren't going to be as good as others, but hopefully experience will take over and help me make pitches and get out of tight situations."
Cruz on DL with ankle sprain; Del Rosario back
HOUSTON -- The Astros placed right-handed reliever Rhiner Cruz on the 15-day disabled list following Tuesday's 6-3 win over the Mets and recalled right-hander Enerio Del Rosario from Triple-A Oklahoma City.
Cruz hasn't pitched since April 23 because of a sprained right ankle and told the club Tuesday afternoon he was still experiencing some discomfort. The Astros went ahead and decided to put him on the DL because he'll be out for at least another week, considering he'll have to make a Minor League appearance to face hitters before returning.
"He went out and threw the ball pretty well, but he still said it bothered him," Houston manager Brad Mills said. "We thought, to be safe for him and to make sure he's 100 percent and it doesn't linger, to go ahead and put him on the DL."
Cruz, a Rule 5 Draft selection last December, is 1-0 with a 2.08 ERA in seven appearances this year in his first Major League season. Del Rosario has appeared in a handful of games for the Astros the past two seasons and has a 3.14 ERA in 11 appearances at Oklahoma City this year.
Mills reflects on unique usage of relievers
HOUSTON -- There was plenty of talk at the ballpark Tuesday about the Astros using seven different pitchers to face seven consecutive Mets batters in Monday's series opener.
After starter Bud Norris was pulled from the game, Wilton Lopez got the final out in the seventh inning. Four relievers -- Wesley Wright, Brandon Lyon, Fernando Abad and Fernando Rodriguez -- faced four different batters in the eighth, with manager Brad Mills wearing out a path to the mound.
"The rest of the infield got tired of coming to the mound and we finally kind of made a joke about it to ease the tension," Mills said.
Closer Brett Myers handled the ninth, with the first batter he faced in the ninth representing the seventh different Mets batter to face a different Houston pitcher.
"You never plan on it, that's for sure," Mills said. "That's something I'm not real thrilled with. I don't like doing that. In the same breath, we wanted to do what we had to do to win that ballgame. Any one of those guys [in the Mets' lineup] could have hit the ball out and put us behind the eight-ball. Being the home team, you're trying to keep that game tied and give us the best opportunity to win the game."
The only reliever who worked Monday that Mills was concerned about his availability Tuesday was Rodriguez, who threw 22 pitches Sunday against the Reds before throwing seven more Tuesday. Mills was also unsure about the availability of right-hander Rhiner Cruz, who's nursing a sprained ankle and hasn't pitched in more than a week.