Carter heating up at just the right time
HOUSTON -- There may be no bat in the Major Leagues more dangerous than that of a red-hot Chris Carter, as Astros fans witnessed last season when he went on a two-month tear late, a span in which he was perhaps the most feared slugger in the league.
Manager A.J. Hinch wasn't around then to see the kind of damage Carter can do when he makes solid contact, but he's starting to understand. Carter walloped a pair of solo home runs to extend his hitting streak to 11 games and help the Astros to a 3-1 win over the Orioles on Wednesday night at Minute Maid Park.
Carter is batting .389 during his 11-game hitting streak and has raised his average above .200 (.205) for the first time this season.
"It's kind of what you visualize," Hinch said of Carter. "We've talked about this over and over throughout his season so far. Any given game, he can impact the game, and he did."
Carter homered to left field on a 3-2 pitch in the second, and hit a mammoth blast off the train high above left field on a 2-0 pitch in the fifth, both off Orioles starter Miguel Gonzalez. His 11 career multihomer games are tied for fifth in Astros history.
"The second [homer], I thought, really showed some maturity in the at-bat," Hinch said. "He didn't try to do too much. He doesn't have to generate a ton for the ball to go a long way. I've only been here a short time [and had] never seen that train get hit. We can see some majestic hits, especially with the roof open. Everything looks like it's going up on his track. It's pretty far into left-center by a big, strong man. That's exactly what you envision, him impacting games."
Last season, Carter hit .296 with 23 homers, 55 RBIs and a 1.033 OPS in 52 games from July 4 to Sept. 5, finishing with 37 homers and 88 RBIs -- both career highs.
"I felt pretty good," said the soft-spoken Carter, who hung out with Houston Rockets star Dwight Howard in the clubhouse after the game. "You know, finally squaring balls up and having good at-bats. Just trying to make solid contact every at-bat."
Hinch stuck with Carter throughout his early-season struggles even though first baseman Jon Singleton was putting up massive numbers at Triple-A Fresno. Carter hit .160 with two homers and six RBIs in April, but Hinch never wavered.
"I've been proud of how he's handled it, and coming in, I know the reputation of him being a very even-keeled guy," Hinch said. "He's taken great pride in his defense, he's got a lot of extra work, he's trying to contribute in every area. Two hundred for that batting average probably never looked so good for him. Double-digit home runs, he's not too far behind too many guys in our league. Clearly, the power is what he brings every night to the ballpark."