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Astros' running game lagging behind past years

MLB.com

OAKLAND -- The Astros have stolen only 11 bases through 36 games, which entering Monday was the second-fewest in the American League (The A's have six). Alex Bregman (three) was the only player with more than two steals, and Jose Altuve had just one. 

Last year, the Astros ranked fourth in the AL with 98 steals, they were third in 2016 (102) and they led the AL in steals with 121 in '15.

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OAKLAND -- The Astros have stolen only 11 bases through 36 games, which entering Monday was the second-fewest in the American League (The A's have six). Alex Bregman (three) was the only player with more than two steals, and Jose Altuve had just one. 

Last year, the Astros ranked fourth in the AL with 98 steals, they were third in 2016 (102) and they led the AL in steals with 121 in '15.

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"We've talked a little bit about our lack of stolen bases," Astros manager AJ Hinch said. "I think they come in spurts."

The Astros have faced 12 left-handed starters, which naturally makes it harder to steal, but Hinch said teams have been doing a good job combating the steal.

"There's more emphasis on being quick to the plate," he said. "There's been some teams that are consciously being 1.1 (seconds), 1.2 to the plate, and having decent-throwing catchers in the game will tell you that you just can't run. It's something we'll monitor and pay attention [to]." 

Altuve was the only player in the Major Leagues with at least 30 steals in the last six seasons, and Altuve led the AL in steals in 2014 (56) and '15. (38). Last year, he stole 32 bases, which ranked third in the AL. He was second with 30 steals in '16.
    
Gattis back at DH
Evan Gattis was back at designated hitter for Monday's series opener against the A's after not starting during the weekend series in Arizona, which was in a National League park and no DH was needed. It's no secret that Gattis, who entered Monday on an 0-for-10 funk, has been struggling, but Hinch is hopeful Gattis' higher contact rate will lead to better results.

Gattis' 20.7 percent swing-and-miss percentage entering Monday was the best of his career, but his batting average on balls in play (BABIP) was about 10 points lower (.268) than last year.

"He's put some balls in play that have turned into outs and obviously he's missed a few pitches recently with some strikeouts," Hinch said. "I don't think his hitting and timing has been great. I think his swing is a touch more fundamentally and mechanically sound, but it hasn't resulted in better production. For him to continue to get the DH at-bats, you want some production out of that position."

Video: HOU@CWS: Gattis hits solo shot, first homer of 2018

Hinch talks obstruction call
Hinch said he spoke postgame Sunday with Peter Woodfork, Major League Baseball's senior vice president of baseball operations, about the controversial obstruction call at third base in the sixth inning of Sunday's 3-1 loss to Arizona. Hinch said he was told the rule was interpreted correctly, but he maintains the rule isn't a good one.

D-backs outfielder A.J. Pollock got tangled with Bregman at third base as a relay throw skipped past the base. Pollock got up and headed for home and was thrown out, but third-base umpire Mike DiMuro called obstruction on Bregman and the run counted.     

Hinch's biggest question is why Pollock was awarded home. 

"That play should stop to the point where the obstruction is," Hinch said. "I understand the letter of the law and it was interpreted correctly, but I think it's a bad rule because I think it wasn't intended for that play to play out that way where it's a run." 

Video: HOU@ARI: Pollock hits RBI triple, scores on error  

Odds and ends
• A's general manager David Forst presented Astros outfielder Josh Reddick with his A's 50th Anniversary Team jersey on the field prior to Monday's game. Reddick, who helped lead the A's to three playoff appearances during five seasons with the club (2012-16), was voted to the 50th Anniversary Team by A's fans.

• Hinch said he sent words of condolences to A's outfielder Stephen Piscotty, whose mother passed away Sunday after a battle with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). Hinch doesn't know Piscotty personally, but he did play against him during a Stanford University alumni game a few years ago.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

Houston Astros, Lance McCullers Jr.