6/2/2013 4:22 P.M. ET
Astros staying loose during current surge
By William Boor / MLB.com
ANAHEIM -- The Astros entered Sunday on a season-high four-win streak, but they have been playing winning baseball for the past several weeks.
The Astros are 9-7 in their past 16 games, with 11 of those having been decided by two runs or less -- in which the Astros are 7-4.
"We've been playing really good ball," Astros second baseman Jose Altuve said. "Every single game we've been battling, those four games we won, and we're going to keep playing hard."
Although the season did not begin the way the Astros would have liked, the team kept focus on the big picture.
Now, the results have been more favorable, and there is a positive energy and attitude in the clubhouse.
"When you win it's always more fun," reliever Brad Peacock said. "But even when things weren't going well, we were doing the same thing -- being loose and having fun."
Although it can be hard to stay loose when the results are not coming, Astros manager Bo Porter says focusing on simply playing the game rather than expectations and the media can help.
"I love baseball, I love these guys, I love the organization," Porter said. "A lot of times we get caught up in the wins, the losses and the expectations, and we forget that this is a game that we all started playing when we were 5 years old and would do it for free."
Porter confident Altuve's swing will heat back up
ANAHEIM -- As the Astros are heating up, second baseman Jose Altuve has been working his way out of a slump.
Altuve recently snapped an 0-for-20 skid, but he has seen his average drop in five straight contests.
What was a .345 batting average on May 9 is .299 entering Sunday's action.
"There's going to be ups and downs," Altuve said. "I'm just going to keep working hard and playing hard for my team."
Although his average has dropped recently, Altuve appears to be swinging the bat better amid a four-game hitting streak, and he had 10 hits in the past nine games.
"It's a long season, things are going to happen, but the team has been playing good," Altuve said. "I'm just trying to do everything I can to score some runs and help my team keep winning games."
Astros manager Bo Porter says he is not worried about Altuve's recent slide. Porter is confident that when August and September come around, Altuve's numbers will be right where they are supposed to be.
"I don't worry about Jose Altuve because this guy can hit," Porter said. "Altuve can go 3-for-10 and it may be 1-for-3, 1-for-3, 1-for-4 and everyone will be like, 'What's wrong with Altuve?' Because we are used to him getting two hits per game.
"We also know he can go 12-for-15. It's all going to even out and at the end of the year he's going to be near the top of the American League in hits and average."
Relievers 'feed off' starters on successful run
ANAHEIM -- While the Astros' rotation has risen to the challenge recently, the bullpen has been just as effective in closing out games.
In the two victories against the Angels to open the current series, Houston's relievers have allowed just one run in five innings -- a solo homer to Erick Aybar on Friday.
Over the past 8 1/3 innings, the bullpen has allowed just two runs total.
"We all go out there and try to do our best every night and it's starting to pay off," right-hander Brad Peacock said. "The bullpen, we are real close, we get along and have fun down there. We feed off each other and that's what's been going on."
Peacock, who threw 2 1/3 scoreless innings in the team's May 30 win against Colorado, added that part of the bullpen's recent success is simply riding the momentum that the starter generates in the beginning of the game.
"We feed off them," Peacock said. "Watch them the whole game, see what pitches they are getting them out with, then come in and do the same thing."
Entering Sunday's action, the relievers have a 4.69 ERA in 211 innings, but with the rotation improving and getting deeper into games, the Astros expect the overworked bullpen to get some much needed rest.
"Our bullpen, that's why we added an extra arm down there, those guys have been taxed, especially early on in the year when our starters were not giving us the quality starts which we are getting now," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "I've been very cognizant on making sure they are getting their proper rest."
• Astros manager Bo Porter has been trying to work backup catcher Carlos Corporan into the lineup, but with Jason Castro putting together a strong season, it has been hard to find Corporan playing time.
"I try to do everything I can to keep him as sharp as possible," Porter said. "That's why there have been stretches where I've given him back-to-back days with one game catching, one game DHing. Obviously try to play him against all the left-handers depending where we are at schedule-wise. Part of that is to keep Castro fresh and the other part is to get Corporan enough playing time where he stays sharp."
• Left-handed-hitting first baseman Carlos Pena is 4-for-8 in the two games against the Angels, and Porter believes he is just getting started.
"Carlos has been great," Porter said. "He's going to hit his stride because he is a streaky hitter. He's a guy that can carry a ballclub. That's why today, even though it's a lefty [C.J. Wilson], he's in there. I feel like he's really on the cusp of breaking out and I want to keep him rolling, keep him in the lineup."
• Shortstop Marwin Gonzalez, who is nursing a slight strain of his right hamstring, is expected to return to the lineup on Monday.
William Boor is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.