BOSTON -- Astros manager AJ Hinch said he's going to pick his spots to use slugger Evan Gattis, who was replaced at designated hitter by Tyler White late in the regular season and got only two at-bats in the American League Division Series against the Indians.Gattis, who is the team's
BOSTON -- Astros manager AJ Hinch said he's going to pick his spots to use slugger Evan Gattis, who was replaced at designated hitter by Tyler White late in the regular season and got only two at-bats in the American League Division Series against the Indians.
Gattis, who is the team's emergency catcher, brings a legitimate home run threat every time he steps to the plate, hitting 25 in 409 at-bats during the regular season. But he homered only four times in his final 93 at-bats, hitting .172 since the end of August.
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"He's a threat," Hinch said. "I mean, if you look at the back of the baseball card, he does some damage. Whenever he gets the opportunity, and you can't ever predict what spot that will be, but he's one of the few guys on either bench that can change a scoreboard with one swing. So that's not lost on me or on the other dugout. When he comes up to bat, the pitcher has to deal with a lot. He's one swing away from a big impact."
Gattis and Alex Bregman tied for a franchise record with 30 RBIs in June, when Gattis was on fire at the plate. During the Astros' 10-game road trip from June 7-17, Gattis had 19 RBIs, so he has the ability to carry a team offensively when he's hot. Whether he gets many chances in the postseason remains to be seen.
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Hinch lauds Marwin's outfield prowess
Hinch said Saturday that Marwin Gonzalez, who started every postseason game last year in left field despite being a natural infielder, is one of the best left fielders in the game. Hinch is speaking from bias, but Gonzalez is clearly the Astros' best option in left field for the second October in a row.
"He made one of the best throws as a left fielder in this ballpark to get a runner thrown out at the plate last year during the playoffs," Hinch said. "He is more than equipped. I don't need to take him out. He's one of the best left fielders in the big leagues, in my opinion."
Even though their best defensive outfielder -- Jake Marisnick -- comes off the bench, the Astros still have a very good defense with Gonzalez in left, George Springer in center and Josh Reddick in right. Marisnick is an upgrade when he enters late in games in center, which often pushes Reddick to left, Springer to right and Gonzalez to the infield.
"It's going from a strong outfield to a super strong outfield," Hinch said.
It appears Gonzalez will again start in left field in every game this postseason so the Astros can get his bat in the lineup. He played in the outfield sparingly from 2014-16 but made the most of his starts in '17 with Yuli Gurriel entrenched at first and no place to play Gonzalez regularly on the infield. This year, Gonzalez started 65 games in left, more than double the number of starts he made at any other position.
Hinch said he would perhaps use Marisnick earlier as a defensive replacement, though, considering how good he's played at Fenway Park defensively in his career. That's if he doesn't use Marisnick as a pinch-runner first, which is something he might be more inclined to do with Myles Straw off the AL Championship Series roster.
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.