It was only a matter of time before Jose Altuve started piling up the hits.
Altuve, the six-time All-Star and three-time batting champion, continues to show signs of shaking off his slow start at the plate. He registered his fourth consecutive multihit game Saturday night in the Astros’ 13-2 loss to the Padres at Petco Park.
“He’s starting to swing like the Altuve that we’ve come to know and love,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said.
Altuve entered the road trip hitting .168 with only three multihit games in his first 22 games of the season. He has gone 9-for-18 since, including a 3-for-4 performance Saturday that has raised his batting average 53 points to .221. He doubled in the first and eighth innings and singled in the sixth.
“I’m trying to not pay attention to that,” said Altuve, whose career average is .312. “It’s a short season, and we’re  games into it, so your average can go up and down really quick.”
A closer look at the numbers reveals Altuve hasn’t struck out in his past four games, which is a terrific sign. His strikeout rate this year of 19.5% is well above his career average (12.2%). The amount of pitches outside the strike zone he has chased has been uncharacteristic.
“I think it’s a combination of a lot of things -- good positioning, good pitches to hit, good approach and just be patient and wait for your pitch,” he said.
The performance by Altuve and the first career homer for rookie Taylor Jones were about the only bright spots for the Astros, who saw starter Brandon Bielak give up four homers and seven runs in 1 1 /3 innings. That included a grand slam by Jake Cronenworth that was the Padres’ fifth slam in their past six games. Trent Grisham had three of San Diego’s six homers in the game.
Altuve’s resurgence comes at the same time he was moved back near the top of the order. A week ago, Altuve asked Baker to move him down in the batting order. Baker dropped Altuve to seventh on Aug. 15 and sixth the following three days, after slugger Yordan Alvarez went down with a knee injury. Altuve returned to the No. 2 hole on Wednesday and has flourished.
“They weren’t getting him out; he was getting himself out, chasing them all over the strike zone,” Baker said. “You get a couple of infield hits, which he’s got a couple the last couple of nights, and he hits the ball down the right-field line for a double and he hit a ball into left-center.
“That’s why I left him in the game. When I see a guy getting his act together, you want him to get up there as many times as possible and start feeling good about [himself]. That’s a welcomed sight because when they come for Altuve, they come in bunches.”