7/5/2013 8:46 P.M. ET
Astros try for continued improvement against Darvish
By Dave Sessions / Special to MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- The first time the Astros saw Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish this season, the Japanese phenom recorded 26 consecutive outs before Marwin Gonzalez spoiled Darvish's perfect game bid with a single up the middle.
The Astros had slightly better luck against Darvish the second time they saw him, collecting three hits and walking three times in his seven innings on May 11. Houston hitters swung and missed at only nine pitches compared to 26 in the near-perfect game, but Darvish still struck out eight and earned the victory.
Houston has hit just .078 against Darvish this season, his lowest opponents' batting average against any team this year. But catcher Jason Castro said the Astros can build off the improvement they showed against Darvish in their second meeting.
"[The first meeting] was pretty new and exciting for everyone," Castro said. "I think we might have been trying a little bit too hard, trying to force some stuff. We're comfortable now, I think, with the way he likes to pitch and the way he goes about attacking hitters. We kind of learned and made some adjustments based on that first time we saw him.
"You know you're going to get a lot of good pitches, a pretty good mix from him. What makes him successful is his ability to mix and not really fall into any patterns. He can literally throw any of his pitches at any time and that's what makes him tough."
Porter repeats lineup, keeping Altuve leadoff
ARLINGTON -- Astros manager Bo Porter has not hesitated to shuffle his young lineup, using 73 different batting orders in the first 86 games, but he may have found one he likes. He repeated the same lineup he used Wednesday for Friday's series opener against the Rangers.
He has used only three lineups more than twice this season and only one more than three times.
"Your job as the manager is to manage the team that you have," Porter said. "You look at the Detroit Tigers. Miguel Cabrera's going to hit third, Prince Fielder's going to hit fourth, Torii Hunter's going to hit second, Austin Jackson's going to leadoff. That's their lineup because the players have established themselves as Major League players and you don't have to really move them around. Whereas we have young guys that are trying to establish themselves as Major League players, so as the manager, I'm going to do everything I can from the standpoint of putting them in the best position that I deem they're going to be successful that day."
Second baseman Jose Altuve led off for the third straight game Friday, making him the most regular leadoff hitter Houston has used this season (29 times, three ahead of Robbie Grossman).
Altuve entered Friday hitting .339 in 28 games in the top spot while hitting .240 in 43 games batting second. He said he doesn't see much difference between the two slots in the order, though.
"As a leadoff hitter, you have to take a few more pitches to get to know what the pitchers have that day," Altuve said. "I feel good in both scenarios. I just want to be part of the nine."
Candidates Castro, Norris await All-Star Game fate
ARLINGTON -- With rosters set to be announced at 5:30 p.m. CT Saturday on the 2013 MLB All-Star Game Selection Show presented by Taco Bell, televised nationally on FOX, the only thing the Astros know for sure is that they will have a representative, as does every MLB club. Who it will be -- and whether there will be more than one -- are still unanswered questions.
It's likely that either catcher Jason Castro or pitcher Bud Norris, but not both, will represent the Astros for the American League on July 16 at Citi Field.
Castro entered Friday's game ranked second among AL catchers in doubles (22), homers (11) and slugging percentage (.465). He ranked third in OPS (.791) and fourth in hits (71). Over the past 38 games, his .914 OPS is the 11th-best in the AL.
"It's kind of a surreal thing to even be included in that talk," Castro said. "That's exciting, and I've been really happy with the way the year's gone so far. I've got some work to do, but my main thing this year is to try to stay as consistent as possible for the full season. Those are really my goals, and if the All-Star selection's a part of that, obviously I would be thrilled."
Norris has made 18 starts, tied for the most in the AL, and was 10th among qualifying pitchers in ERA (3.22) entering Friday's game.
Manager Bo Porter said he hadn't spoken to Tigers manager Jim Leyland, the AL skipper this year, but expected Leyland and his staff to make a smart choice.
"Whatever player or players we have chosen will be completely deserving," Porter said.
• Porter said closer Jose Veras felt better than expected Friday after a line drive caromed off his pitching hand, bruising it, in Thursday's loss to Tampa Bay. "I think he's fine," Porter said. "He said it wasn't as sore as he thought it was going to be."
• Friday was Porter's 41st birthday, which he shares with Hall of Famer Goose Gossage.
• Porter was pleased to hear reports that the Houston Rockets agreed to terms with All-Star center Dwight Howard, the most sought-after free agent in the NBA. "Any time you get an opportunity to add a franchise player to your organization and to the core players that they have already, it's a huge win for the city of Houston," Porter said. "I'm excited."
Dave Sessions is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.