04/30/2013 8:20 PM ET
Astros' tight infield defense a boon to Harrell
By Brian McTaggart / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- With sinkerballer Lucas Harrell getting the Yankees to hit the ball on the ground with regularity, inducing four double plays during Monday's 9-1 Astros win, Houston's slick infield defense had a chance to show its stuff. Third baseman Matt Dominguez, second baseman Jose Altuve and the shortstop combo of Marwin Gonzalez and Ronny Cedeno have played terrific and worked well together.
As a result, the Astros entered Tuesday leading the Major Leagues with 35 double plays and added to that total in the first inning with a 4-6-3 twin killing.
"We're all still trying to figure out where we like to play and things like that -- what balls I can get to in the hole and what balls Ronny and Marwin can get to," Dominguez said. "I think we're all just starting to kind of jell, and it may sound weird, but we're in a defensive groove right now and starting to feel more comfortable."
Porter credits the work of bench coach Eduardo Perez for positioning the infielders properly, based on the information he receives from the club's analytics department.
"I've always said this: Quality defense starts with the ball before it's pitched and being in the right position," Porter said. "We've done a great job from an organizational standpoint in providing these guys with information to position themselves properly, and they've done a great job of letting their abilities show."
Porter hopes Harrell's ability to pitch to contact and let his defense do the work will serve as a lesson to the Astros' other pitchers.
"We have a pretty good defense," Porter said. "If you make the team put the ball in play and the pace of the game is good, the plays are going to be made. We've only gotten in trouble when it's a lot of deep counts and guys are being walked, and it compiles baserunners and the pace of the game slows down. We've been extremely happy overall with the defense as a whole throughout the course of the season."
Astros set to recall Lyles, Keuchel
NEW YORK -- The Astros are preparing to call up right-hander Jordan Lyles and left-hander Dallas Keuchel from Triple-A Oklahoma City, a baseball source told MLB.com on Tuesday.
It's unknown what the corresponding roster moves will be, but the Astros have yet to announce who will start Thursday's game against the Tigers in Houston. That's the rotation spot formerly occupied by Brad Peacock, who struggled and was moved to the bullpen.
Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow couldn't be reached for comment.
Lyles, 22, was set to begin the season in the Astros' starting rotation, but he was sent to Triple-A following a poor spring. He went 2-2 with a 5.32 ERA in six games (five starts) for the RedHawks, throwing a strong game on Saturday in which he allowed three hits and one run in five innings.
Lyles made 25 starts for the Astros last year and went 5-12 with a 5.09 ERA.
Keuchel, 25, also began the season in Oklahoma City but was recalled on April 6 when Travis Blackley went on the disabled list with a left shoulder strain. Keuchel posted a 3.38 ERA in 10 2/3 innings spanning four relief appearances with Houston before being sent back down on April 21 when the Astros' bullpen was in need of a fresh arm.
Barnes' hot start adjusting Astros' plans
NEW YORK -- Astros manager Bo Porter plans to give outfielder Brandon Barnes more playing time, which is why Barnes was in the starting lineup against the Yankees on Tuesday, playing left field for the first time this season. It was Barnes' 11th start of the year but only his second against a right-hander.
Barnes has been starting in right field against left-handers, and Rick Ankiel has been starting in right against right-handers. Barnes entered Tuesday on a six-game hitting streak during which he had gone 10-for-20, including 3-for-5 in Monday's 9-1 win. He was a career .227 hitter against righties and a .290 hitter against lefties entering Tuesday.
"Brandon has played outstanding, and I think he deserves some more at-bats," Porter said before Tuesday's game. "He played well again last night, and that's why he's back in the lineup today and we'll continue to see how he takes advantage of the opportunity, but I want to find more opportunities for him."
Barnes is also capable of playing center field and made several terrific catches there last year. When Justin Maxwell went on the disabled with a broken left hand, the team called up Robbie Grossman to start in center.
"Grossman came here, and the plan was to give him an opportunity to see if he can play every day at the Major League level," Porter said, "but Brandon Barnes has done nothing to hurt his chances or [have an] opportunity to eventually be an everyday player. He came into the season with the notion he was only going to play against lefties, and he's coming to the ballpark today and starting against a right-hander. When you play well, from a manager's standpoint, it's my goal to keep the guys that are playing well in the lineup."
• Porter said that on Wednesday, the Astros will announce who will start Thursday's series opener against the Detroit Tigers. It's expected to be either Paul Clemens, Jose Ciserno or Travis Blackley, and the decision could depend on how the bullpen is used on Tuesday night.
• Outfielder J.D. Martinez began a Minor League rehab assignment at Double-A Corpus Christi on Tuesday. He's been on the disabled list with a sprained right knee since April 20.