Altuve among league leaders in hits
Second baseman's torrid early pace could lead to 200 for season
HOUSTON -- There's a long season ahead, but Astros second baseman Jose Altuve is on pace to become just the second Houston player to reach 200 hits in a season, joining Craig Biggio, who had a club-record 210 hits in 1998.
Altuve entered play Saturday with 50 hits, which ranked second in the Major Leagues behind fellow Venezuelan Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers, who had 52 hits. Altuve's 35 hits in April were a club record for a second baseman.
"I haven't thought about it," Altuve said of 200 hits. "I just go day by day and try to get my hits and get on base and score some runs and help the team."
Altuve grew up idolizing Cabrera, but the two have grown into friends. In fact, Altuve often leans on the 2012 American League Most Valuable Player for advice.
"We talk on the phone maybe twice a week," Altuve said. "When I don't feel really good at the plate, I text him and say, 'Miggy, I'm doing this. What do you think?' He tells me what I have to do. He's the best hitter in baseball right now. When I hear people say I'm behind him in leading the league in hits, that makes me feel really good."
But would Cabrera still feel good if Altuve passes him?
"I don't think he's going to feel happy about that," he joked. "He keeps telling me what he's doing and tries to help me."
Porter sticking with Grossman in center field
HOUSTON -- Astros manager Bo Porter remains committed to giving more at-bats to rookie center fielder Robbie Grossman, who has started 15 of the team's past 17 games in center field. Grossman entered Saturday hitting .188, but had hit safely in nine of his previous 11 games with a .360 on-base percentage.
"We're going to continue to give him an opportunity to play," Porter said. "That's why he's here, and he's going to continue to get that opportunity until we decide to make a different decision."
Porter is a huge fan of Grossman's gritty style of play and his tools, and the manager plans to give him as much time as he can to see what he can do. Grossman's a very good defensive outfielder, but he's aggressive on the bases as well.
Grossman was recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma City on April 24 after he hit .324 with a .452 on-base percentage in 19 games.
"He definitely works the count and he's hit several balls on the nose," Porter said. "From an average standpoint, he may not have anything to show for it, but every time you look around he's squaring the ball up and somebody's making a diving play or a great play. He has tremendous at-bats and he's done a lot of good things since he's been here."
Martinez proud of former pupil Miller
HOUSTON -- After pitching the best game of his Major League career by retiring 27 Colorado batters in a row Friday after a leadoff single, Cardinals 22-year-old pitcher Shelby Miller said he remembered something Dennis Martinez told him when he was the Cards' Minor League pitching coach.
"He said you walk off the mound like you don't want to leave and you run out there because you can't wait to get back out there," Miller told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Martinez knows something about retiring 27 straight batters. He pitched a perfect game for the Montreal Expos against the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1991. In his first season as bullpen coach of the Astros, Martinez was thrilled to see Miller pitch so well.
"It's always great to know that guys -- especially Shelby, who was with me with the Cardinals' organization -- are able to recognize that and say that at the time after he pitched an outstanding ballgame," Martinez said. "I watched a little bit of the highlights of that game and he was outstanding. He hit the outside corners consistently and had a good breaking ball.
"The thing I like about him is he's determined. He's able to complete. He's always competing and all he needs to do is establish the fastball away on the outside corner."
Martinez isn't surprised to see Miller, who was drafted 19th overall in 2009, have such a dominating game in the big leagues.
"He had the tools to get better in every aspect of the pitching perspective and locate the fastball better," he said. "Our job was to reinforce the way they're supposed to take care of business when they take the mound. It's nice to hear he said something like that. That's what it takes. A little thing you tell them or talk to them about, and they're able to pick it up and take that. I'm happy to see him succeeding."
• Outfielder Justin Maxwell, who's been on the disabled list since April 24 with a fractured left hand, won't travel with the team to Detroit and Pittsburgh next week. He plans to stay in Houston to work out with Matt Holland, a sports rehabilitation specialist at the Methodist Hospital in Houston.