The Houston Astros don’t hit much for average despite having reigning AL batting champion Jose Altuve in their lineup, but they have the potential to hit the ball out of the park with every swing of the bat.
Matt Shoemaker knows that all too well.
After another power display, the Astros look to take two of three from the host Los Angeles Angels when they try to rough up Shoemaker again Wednesday.
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Houston’s .242 average ranks among the worst in the majors, though it has risen eight points since Carlos Correa made his major league debut June 8. Correa is hitting .308 after going 3 for 6 with a three-run homer and four RBIs in Tuesday’s 13-3 win.
Correa’s 20 hits are the most in franchise history for a player through 15 major league games, breaking the record shared by Doug Rader (1967) and Josh Anderson (2007).
”He’s not a secret anymore. He’s a good player, and he’s very comfortable up here,” manager A.J. Hinch said. ”He’s not scared off by the moment and he’s not timid at all.”
The AL West-leading Astros (42-31) lead the majors with 107 home runs and have won 29 of 31 games when hitting two or more. They’ve homered in 10 straight for the club’s longest streak since a 12-game run in 2007.
Five Astros have reached double digits in homers, including Luis Valbuena, who hit two Tuesday to give him a team-high 19. He’s batting just .195, though, and seven of his 11 hits over his last 11 games have left the park.
”(Valbuena isn’t) getting a lot of hits to improve his batting average, but he does damage,” Hinch said. ”When you watch him every day, he doesn’t seem like a guy who’s hitting under .200.”
Shoemaker (4-5, 5.20 ERA) has surrendered six homers in 12 1-3 innings over two starts and two relief appearances against the Astros, including a May 9 loss when he allowed six runs in three innings of a 6-5 defeat.
Altuve, Colby Rasmus and Chris Carter homered off Shoemaker in that contest, one of a number of starts this season the right-hander has struggled after going 16-4 with a 3.04 ERA as a rookie in 2014.
Shoemaker has allowed at least five runs in four outings after doing so only once in 20 starts last season. He gave up five and eight hits – including two homers after not allowing any in his previous four starts – through four-plus innings before the Angels (36-36) rallied for a 12-7 win over Oakland on Friday.
Albert Pujols has been putting on a home run show of his own lately, hitting 15 while batting .356 over his last 25 games. He hit two in a 4-3 win over Houston in Monday’s series opener.
Pujols went 1 for 2 with a walk Tuesday as Los Angeles fell for the third time in four games. The Angels look to bounce back against Lance McCullers, who is coming off the worst outing of his short career.
McCullers (3-2, 2.45) gave up five runs – three earned – in 4 1-3 innings of Friday’s 5-2 loss to Seattle. The 21-year-old allowed two runs or fewer in five of his first six starts since making his major league debut against Oakland on May 18.
"It was frustrating all night," McCullers said.
The right-hander, though, has held opponents to a .189 average while striking out 46 in 40 1-3 innings.