6/1/2013 9:48 P.M. ET
Pena could be on verge of offensive breakthrough
By William Boor / MLB.com
ANAHEIM -- Carlos Peña began the season with just three hits in his first 23 at-bats, and he finished April with two home runs and a .220 batting average, but none of that discouraged manager Bo Porter.
Although it may be Porter's first year managing Peña, he knows the 35-year-old can hit and was simply waiting for him to turn it around.
"He's one of those veteran guys," Porter said following Friday's win over the Angels. "Even early on, when he was struggling, there was no concern on my behalf, because I've known this guy for a long time. You can look at the back of his baseball card, and you see the production that this guy has been able to have."
Peña went 3-for-5 with an RBI on Friday, has a three-game hitting streak, is batting .297 in his last 10 games and appears to be on the verge of putting up the type of numbers Porter knows he can.
Although one game -- even one with three hits -- doesn't mean Peña has completely broken through at the plate, Porter knows Peña is capable of helping the Astros' offense simply with his presence in the lineup.
"You look at the numbers, and they might not be where you want them, but I'll tell you one thing -- Carlos Peña is getting the guy in front of him pitches to hit," Porter said.
Astros' rotation has found a comfort zone
ANAHEIM -- The Astros are riding a three-game winning streak, and their starting pitchers appear to have found a comfort zone.
In the past five games, the rotation allowed 10 runs in 32 2/3 innings, and each starter allowed three runs or fewer in his most recent start.
"I just think we're catching our stride," Jordan Lyles said. "I don't think we can pinpoint anything exactly. We are coming into our own and putting quality starts together."
In addition to putting up good numbers, the starters have been pitching deeper into games, going into the sixth inning in each of the past five contests.
"I think the main thing that sticks out is that us starters are getting deeper into games. and that's been really big for us and the bullpen," Lyles said. "We've had some games where we've taxed our bullpen, and lately I think we've made up for it and started to catch our stride and put up quality starts."
Although having the arm strength and stamina to pitch deep into a game is one thing, executing the pitches to stay in a game is another.
Lately the Astros have done just that, with the rotation posting a 2.75 ERA in its last turn through.
Dallas Keuchel is the latest to turn in a quality start, limiting the Angels to two runs in seven innings on Friday.
"I've always felt confident in myself," Keuchel said afterward. "It's just a matter of executing pitches on a consistent basis."
Manager Bo Porter is confident in his rotation and believes the trend can continue.
"I feel like the five guys that we have in there, they give us the best opportunity -- each and every time they have the ball -- to win ballgames, and they're doing a tremendous job," Porter said.
Altuve picking up the pace on the basepaths
ANAHEIM -- It is no secret that second baseman Jose Altuve can steal bases.
The 23-year old stole seven in 57 games in 2011, his rookie year. In 2012 he led the Astros, with 33. This season, Altuve is on pace to swipe 27, as he was not overly aggressive early and didn't steal his first until April 17.
However, with four stolen bases in the past five games, Altuve has picked up the pace.
"It's a huge part of his game," manager Bo Porter said. "Basestealing does not start when you get on the bases, it starts pregame -- understanding who's on the mound for them, understanding who's catching for them, understanding how they're pitching guys that are hitting behind you so that you're picking the right pitches, and understanding the different keys."
In the seventh inning of Friday's win over the Angels, Altuve stole second -- his ninth stolen base of the season.
"He's been doing a great job in his pregame with the information, and it's now allowing him to be more aggressive," Porter said.
• Bo Porter announced on Saturday that shortstop Marwin Gonzalez will return to the lineup on Monday, though Gonzalez is available off the bench in an emergency on Saturday.
• With the First-Year Player Draft taking place next week, the organization has been busy going over last-minute details and finalizing whom they will select with their No. 1 overall pick. Although Porter's main focus is the current 25-man roster, he is confident that the organization will use the pick wisely.
"We're in a great position, and I believe our scouting department has done a great job of scaling possible picks," Porter said. "I believe we will make a decision that will be beneficial to the Houston Astros for many years to come."
William Boor is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.