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Altuve makes impact in return

ANAHEIM -- Jose Altuve, making his return to the lineup after missing the previous four games with a strained right hamstring, came up with the Astros' biggest hit of the game in their 4-3 loss to the Angels on Monday night when he ripped a game-tying double to left field in the eighth.

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The All-Star second baseman went 0-for-3 with a pair of flyouts and a strikeout before he capped a nine-pitch battle against Joe Smith with a fly ball that took one hop and went over the short wall in left. Had it stayed in play, Carlos Correa would have likely scored from first base to give the Astros the lead.

"I didn't think it was going to be out of the park, but I saw the outfielders playing really shallow so I knew it had a good chance to get on the ground," Altuve said. "If it stays on the field, we score two, but this is baseball."

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Astros manager A.J. Hinch said he was worried about Altuve's strike-zone judgment after missing seven of the previous nine games, and said Altuve looked antsy early in the game, trying to swing at pitchers' pitches.

When he came to bat in the eighth, the Astros had runners at first and second and two outs, trailing, 3-2.

"With the game on the line, I trust him as much as anybody to put a good at-bat together," Hinch said. "I'll take anything in that situation from him. The ground-rule double seemed to be a little bit of a killer. If he hits it a foot farther or foot less, Correa scores easily from first. A little bad luck there, but a good at-bat by a good hitter."

Perhaps more importantly for Altuve is that he came out of the game with no hamstring issues.

"It feels really good, absolutely," he said. "My last at-bat I hit a hard chopper foul and I ran 100 percent to first base and I really felt happy because it didn't bother me at all."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.
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