Jose Altuve's 3-run homer helps Astros beat Braves 7-6
KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) Jose Altuve hit a three-run homer and the Houston Astros beat the Atlanta Braves 7-6 on Sunday.
''I hit the ball in the air and the wind helped a little bit, but I'm happy because I did my job,'' the All-Star second baseman said. ''In that situation I had a man on third base, less than two outs. I'm just trying to hit a good pitch and bring him in.''
Altuve's first home run this spring put the Astros ahead during a six-run fourth against relievers Matt Marksberry and Rob Wooten. Colby Rasmus and Jason Castro each had an RBI double in the inning.
The 5-foot-6 Altuve hit a career-high 15 homers last season.
''Pound for pound he's got as much power as anybody. He's got a real swing and real power,'' Houston manager A.J. Hinch said. ''He's not always asked upon to swing like it, but his bat-to-ball skills are so good that if he gets a good pitch to hit, he can do anything with it.''
Altuve's steady production helped the Astros capture an AL wild card last year.
''Obviously, it was a pretty good year for me and the team,'' Altuve said. ''I'll take that for the rest of my career, 15 homers per year. I think that's pretty good.''
Two hits by Erick Aybar and Adonis Garcia's two-run homer off Houston starter Doug Fister helped the Braves take a 4-1 lead before the Astros rallied.
Aybar finished with three hits, and Ender Inciarte had a triple and a double for Atlanta.
Fister and Wandy Rodriguez, candidates for the Astros' starting rotation, pitched three innings apiece.
Braves: Matt Wisler gave up one run and two hits while striking out three in 2 2-3 innings. ''I've got some small things I've got to fix,'' he said. ''My fastball command wasn't that sharp. I got behind some guys today, but overall I'm pretty happy.''
Astros: Fister allowed three runs and six hits in his third start. Garcia's homer came on a high strike the 6-foot-8 right-hander is trying to establish. ''There's a fine line there, and I haven't quite found that line yet,'' Fister said.
Braves: C Tyler Flowers caught four innings, playing in the field for the first time since straining his hamstring a week ago.
Astros: C Max Stassi was sent back to Houston to have his left hand X-rayed by team doctors. ''For us to send him back to Houston, that means that we obviously have concerns, based on the initial diagnosis,'' Hinch said. ... RHP Luke Gregerson (left oblique) will probably pitch in a game for the first time Wednesday or Thursday.
SIGH OF RELIEF
Houston left-hander Neal Cotts entered with two runners on in the fourth inning and faced only one batter. Freddie Freeman's 410-foot drive was caught near the top of the wall by center fielder Carlos Gomez. Cotts got the win.
Braves: RHP Julio Teheran will face the Tampa Bay Rays at Disney World in his second start of the spring.
Astros: AL Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel makes his second start, at Viera against Washington.