Catching duo packing plenty of punch
Astros' Conger, Castro combine for 4 HRs in past 3 games
HOUSTON -- To get a smile and a story out of Astros manager A.J. Hinch, mention one of two things -- Stanford or catchers.
The Cardinal alum and seven-year Major League backstop is partial to the position, even joking in the dugout during Saturday's 9-2 win over Arizona that a solid chunk of Houston's offensive power squats behind the plate.
"Sometimes you've got to go to the heart and soul of your team to get some production," Hinch said with a grin. "There's the catcher bias in me."
Hinch's quip isn't unfounded. Hank Conger continued a torrid three-game stretch for Astros catchers on Saturday, mashing two homers for his first career multihomer game, including a fourth-inning grand slam -- also the first of Conger's career.
"I'll never forget my first grand slam," Conger said. "It's never happened ... and when it happened, I was pretty stoked about it."
Conger's monster night followed two games that saw Jason Castro -- also a Stanford alum -- break out of a season-long rut with two home runs, one of which walked off the Angels in a 3-0 win Thursday to clinch a sweep. Castro, who had just six hits with runners in scoring position before the ninth-inning at-bat against the Halos, is riding a five-game hitting streak.
Meanwhile, Conger is hitting .311 in 28 games since June while seeing sporadic playing time, having only played in consecutive games three times this season.
"It's a matter of just kind of getting in the groove," Conger said. "I feel like both of us have been swinging the bat pretty well and I think we both feed off each other. We always talk and we're always working hard to get our swings right."
Even with Castro seeing the majority of the playing time, Hinch routinely says his two catchers are interchangeable and has no issues sticking either one behind the plate regardless of who's pitching.
The hitting's just a bonus.
"I love how they're both feeding off of everyone," Hinch said. "We go out every day as catchers and we want to catch a winner. If you get a hit or two, that's a pretty good feeling as well. These guys are doing damage the last couple games and it's been exciting for both of them. I've said all along we've got two everyday catchers that I can throw out there every day."