HOUSTON -- There is no time for pitchers to catch their breath when facing an Astros lineup that has All-Stars George Springer, Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa near the top, along with Josh Reddick and Marwin Gonzalez, who are having the best seasons of their careers.When the Astros are healthy,
HOUSTON -- There is no time for pitchers to catch their breath when facing an Astros lineup that has All-Stars George Springer, Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa near the top, along with Josh Reddick and Marwin Gonzalez, who are having the best seasons of their careers.
When the Astros are healthy, things don't let up at the bottom, either, with guys like Yuli Gurriel lingering. The 33-year-old rookie, batting in the seventh spot Wednesday night, went 3-for-4 with a two-run double in the Astros' 4-3 win over the White Sox at Minute Maid Park.
"This offense has been really good all season, where it's noteworthy if we don't do something extreme," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "We've got [Brian McCann] batting at the bottom of the order most times, I've got Gurriel down there in the seven-, eight-hole, I've got a switch-hitter in [Carlos Beltran], and Marwin's moved up. There's not a lot of empty pockets where we don't have some sort of production."
Gurriel, signed last summer after a decorated career in Cuba, is 10-for-19 (.526) in his past five games and for the season is hitting .298 with a .330 on-base percentage, .484 slugging percentage and 17 homers.
Gurriel set the franchise rookie record with his 57th extra-base hit Wednesday, surpassing the previous record of 56 set by Hunter Pence in 2007. Gurriel's 38 doubles are the most by an AL rookie since Dustin Pedroia (39) and Delmon Young (38), also in 2007, and his 69 RBIs are tied for second-most by an Astros rookie.
"I'm really happy that I've been able to help the team win some ballgames," he said. "I feel really good at the plate and am having a good year so far."
Gurriel is a big reason why the Astros have an .840 OPS from the No. 7 spot in the batting order (entering Wednesday). That's the second-highest OPS in the bottom six spots of Houston's batting order, even higher than the cleanup spot.
In the fourth inning Wednesday, White Sox starter James Shields threw Gurriel four consecutive breaking balls and was even in the count, 2-2, when Gurriel took a fastball for ball three. With the runners on the move, Gurriel then shot a breaking ball into the right-center-field gap to score a pair and put Houston ahead, 3-2. The exit velocity was 106.8 mph, according to Statcast™.
"His balls carry to the outfield as far and as long and as hard as anyone," Hinch said. "His hard-hit rate is off the chart. He's really good at making contact on the barrel with some length and the ball carries pretty far out there. He's what they call a professional hitter, and it doesn't matter what country, what level, this guy can really hit."
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.