5/18/2014 6:52 P.M. ET
Altuve rounding into more disciplined hitter
By Brian McTaggart / MLB.com
HOUSTON -- Astros manager Bo Porter on Sunday praised the strike-zone judgment of second baseman Jose Altuve, who entered the day with 14 walks and 14 strikeouts in 197 plate appearances. That's remarkable progress for Altuve, who had struck out more than twice as many times as he had walked (188 to 77) entering the season.
"I'm so proud of this guy," Porter said.
When Altuve was called up from Double-A in 2011, he hardly walked. The keystoner drew just five walks and struck out 29 times in 221 at-bats that season and showed improvement in his All-Star year of 2012, walking 40 times and striking out 74 times.
"It's been phenomenal," Porter said. "He's gotten more at-bats and he understands now the value of counts, situations, when they're OK with walking him, and he's allowing it play out. His mental strike zone has gotten better, which is helping his strike-zone discipline."
Altuve has always had great hand-eye coordination, but he has grown up mentally as a hitter.
Villar OK after exiting with bruise on throwing hand
HOUSTON -- Astros shortstop Jonathan Villar said he expected to play in Monday's series opener in Anaheim after exiting Sunday's game with a deep bruise between the thumb and forefinger on his throwing hand.
Villar suffered the bruise swinging the bat in the fourth inning, when he had the second of his two singles in an 8-2 win over the White Sox.
"There's a chance for me to play tomorrow or the next day," Villar said.
Villar was held out of manager Bo Porter's lineup on May 7 in Detroit with a jammed right thumb, which he suffered while fielding grounders the day before. This bruise is in pretty much the same place.
"I think he'll be fine," Porter said. "He jammed his thumb, but [taking him out] was more of a precautionary thing than anything. If you look at the conditions of the game [the Astros were winning, 6-1], we felt like we could get him out and get him some treatment and he'd be OK tomorrow."
Astros starting to find consistency at plate
HOUSTON -- The Astros' offense has blossomed in the last week, and much of that can be attributed to the stability at the top of the order. Jose Altuve, George Springer, Dexter Fowler and Jason Castro have all been swinging the bats better lately, which has given the rest of the lineup a boost.
In Sunday's 8-2 win over the White Sox, Altuve extended his hitting streak to 10 games, during which he's hitting .391; Springer is hitting .298 in his past 12 games; Fowler is hitting .304 with a .437 on-base percentage in his last 28 games; and Castro is 4-for-12 in his last three games, though he was out of the lineup Sunday.
"It's coming together," manager Bo Porter said. "I like the balance and what we have going right now. It's good having George behind Altuve. He's going to see more fastballs, and Dexter is swinging the bat extremely well. And the guys we look to drive in runs are coming behind them."
As a team, the Astros are hitting .254 in 30 games since April 16 after scuffling with a .185 batting average through the first 14 games of the season. That included a .298 batting average in the team's last eight contests, with six 11-hit outputs.
Porter gives window into mound chat with Cosart
HOUSTON -- Those who wonder what is said when a manager goes to the mound to talk to a pitcher should appreciate the insight provided by Astros manager Bo Porter on Sunday.
Jarred Cosart, who won Saturday's game despite battling control problems and lasting five innings, got two outs to start the fifth before giving up two singles. With a 4-3 lead, Porter went to the mound to talk to Cosart, who was one out away from qualifying for a win.
"I normally don't share this, but I'm going to share it because it's good," Porter said.
Before that inning started, Porter told Cosart he understood he was struggling but wanted to give him the opportunity to get three outs and put himself in line for the win. So when he allowed a pair of hits that put the potential tying run on second base, Porter felt it was time for another chat.
"It's becoming a stressful inning, so I walked out to the mound and I said, 'What are you going to tell me to convince me to leave you in the game?'" Porter said. "He said, 'Well, you told me to get three outs before they scored. They haven't scored yet, and I'm going to get three outs.' I said, 'OK, see you in the dugout.'"
Cosart promptly retired Alexei Ramirez on a fly ball to center field and wound up getting the win.
"That's good maturation, though," Porter said. "For him to find a way to make it through five innings, it's huge because there's going to be times when he's going to go out there with his 'A' stuff and he's going to breeze through seven or eight. A day like [Saturday], for him not to have his fastball command and really just scuffle through five innings and only give up three runs and leave us in position to turn the game over to the bullpen, that could boost your confidence."
• Relief pitcher Matt Albers, on the disabled list since April 22 with shoulder tendinitis, will stay in Houston while the team hits the road this week. Albers had a cortisone shot Tuesday and is still at least a week way from throwing, but he will rehab at Methodist Hospital.
• Relief pitcher Jesse Crain, who's on the 60-day disabled list, threw in the bullpen at Minute Maid Park on Saturday without any problems and will head back to Kissimmee, Fla., to continue his rehab from biceps tendinitis surgery and bursititis.
"When we start talking about facing live hitters, that's when we really are getting somewhere," Porter said.