Altuve leads off, Bregman hits 2nd for Houston

Hinch: 'Sometimes you just shake it up, even if it's a small shake-up'

June 22nd, 2019

NEW YORK -- took much of the blame for the Astros' recent funk following Friday night's loss to the Yankees, saying that he needed to do a better job setting the tone atop Houston's lineup.

Saturday, Bregman had a new spot in the batting order, where he'll watch new leadoff man try to get the Astros going to open the game.

Manager AJ Hinch made the move after Bregman's 0-for-5 performance Friday, part of an extended slide that saw the infielder go 7-for-45 (.156) over 13 games. Bregman's average dropped from .275 to .260 during that stretch, in which he's been unable to record a multi-hit game.

"It's the same hitters hitting in a different order," Hinch said. "Sometimes you just have to change for the sake of change to give the lineup a different look. Jose is obviously very confident, and he's got a couple hits. Alex in the two-hole has been very good. It's really no more complicated than that. Sometimes you just shake it up, even if it's a small shake-up."

Bregman said Friday night that he hasn't been happy with the quality of his at-bats of late, but Hinch made it clear that he still wants to see Bregman hitting in the first inning.

Bregman and Altuve were both named finalists on Friday for the All-Star Starters Election.

Staying the course
Despite entering Saturday on a six-game losing streak -- their longest slide since 2015 -- Hinch had no plans to call a team meeting to take his team's temperature.

"I don't have to tell them that we've had a rough week," Hinch said. "Everybody knows that; we've lived it together. There are multiple ways to address the lulls in the season; if it's not an effort problem or if it's not mistake-prone, I think you just have to grind it out and play the season, continue to work and stay the course. Any time you're going to think about a meeting or you're going to talk to your players or address a segment of the season, you have to have a really good reason. This week in particular, while it's been a terrible week for us results-wise, has not been driven out of mistakes, mental mistakes, lapses in judgement. We've just not played well enough to win the games."

The Astros have struggled mightily with runners in scoring position, going 6-for-44 (.136) during the losing streak. Friday night marked their worst performance in that category, as the lineup went 1-for-13.

"The last thing I need to tell them is, 'Hey, we need a hit here with a runner on second base,'" Hinch said. "This is the big leagues; we know that productive at-bats with runners in scoring position are huge. Our hitting coaches are giving them a good game plan, the players are trying to execute; we're not executing right now."

Rehab report
Hinch received positive reports on Collin McHugh (right elbow discomfort) and Joe Smith (left Achilles tendon surgery) after they pitched in Friday night's game for Double-A Corpus Christi.

Making his first appearance of 2019, Smith struck out three batters during a scoreless inning, while McHugh retired both batters he faced, striking out one.

"They were both really good," Hinch said.

McHugh is scheduled to throw 15-20 pitches Saturday, the back-to-back appearances representing his final hurdle before rejoining the Astros next week.

Smith, who is embarking on what Hinch called "very much a Spring Training for him," isn't likely to be a factor for the Astros before the All-Star break.

"I joked with him and told him he's pitched above that level now that he's struck out three," Hinch said. "We have to get him out of there."

George Springer (left hamstring strain) was scheduled to play the outfield Saturday and serve as the designated hitter for Corpus Christi on Sunday. He's expected to rejoin the Astros on Tuesday.