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Valbuena displaying home run stroke Astros expected

Lefty-swinging infielder tied for team lead with three home runs

HOUSTON -- The Astros traded for Luis Valbuena in the offseason partly because of his ability to hit for some pop, which he did last year by slugging 16 homers with the Cubs. Two weeks into his Astros career, he's tied for the team lead with three homers after his two-run blast in the third inning of Sunday's 4-3 win over the Angels.

Valbuena, a left-handed hitter, has homered twice to left field in his past three games, on Sunday sending the first pitch he saw from Garrett Richards in the third inning into the Crawford Boxes to score Jose Altuve, who led off the inning with the second of his three hits.

"It was good," Valbuena said. "It was a good pitch I was looking for, and I was being aggressive. He threw me a pitch where I wanted, and I hit it hard and the ball [went]."

Valbuena, who homered to left field in Wednesday's win over the A's, flirted with the Crawford Boxes again in the eighth inning Sunday with a fly ball to left-center that might have traveled farther than his 349-foot homer. That's a good sign, manager A.J. Hinch said.

"We've seen two balls go into the Crawford Boxes and almost a third in his last at-bat," he said. "He's starting to see more pitches, starting to swing at our pitches. One of the characteristics about our team that will be better as time goes on will be swinging at better pitches.

"That might lead itself to more opposite-field hits or opposite-field power. We've got power to all fields, but as we take better pitches and get better at-bats, you can see the damage we can do. Can we do that consistently over time? That's what the game is all about, but when guys are staying on the ball and going a little bit deeper into counts and not worried about the word 'strikeout,' that's good to see for a confident team that's starting to build momentum."

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