HOUSTON -- Astros manager Bo Porter has found a lineup combination he believes has paid dividends recently with shortstop Jonathan Villar hitting ninth, left fielder Robbie Grossman hitting leadoff and right fielder L.J. Hoes hitting second.
All three players, who began the season in the Minor Leagues, are terrific runners, and the speed dynamic has allowed the Astros to push the envelope at different stages of the game. Villar hit sixth on Sunday with catcher Cody Clark batting ninth.
"You still have those run-producing guys hitting in the middle of the lineup, but having that speed dynamic at the top and the bottom allows us to play aggressive," Porter said.
Villar, who was called up from Triple-A Oklahoma City on July 21, entered Sunday tied for first among Major League rookies with 11 stolen bases, despite playing just 25 games. He has reached base safely in 17 of his last 21 games and 19 of 24 total in which he had an at-bat.
Hoes was acquired from the Orioles on July 31 in the Bud Norris trade and has made an impact on the lineup, hitting .321 while making 18 starts in right field and one in center. Grossman's second Major League stint this season has seen him hit .343 with six doubles, four homers, 18 RBIs and four steals since he was recalled on July 27.
"It's been great to have guys at the top of the lineup that get on base pretty consistently," Astros catcher Jason Castro said. "Grossman's done a great job, L.J.'s come in and done an outstanding job. Not only are they getting on base, but it seems like we have a lot more speed we haven't had in the past -- guys taking extra bases, stealing bases and getting in scoring position for the rest of the guys in the lineup. That's been a big part for some of our success."
Neither Corporan nor Stassi will travel to Chicago
HOUSTON -- Astros catchers Carlos Corporan and Max Stassi, both of whom are on the seven-day concussion disabled list, won't travel with the team to Chicago for this week's series against the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field.
Both backstops are still feeling the lingering effects from concussions suffered in last week's series against the Rangers and will continue to rest in Houston. Corporan was struck on the mask by a foul tip on Monday, and Stassi was hit in the head by a pitch on Wednesday.
Corporan, who was hitting .245 with seven homers and 17 RBIs as the backup to All-Star catcher Jason Castro, said he hopes to begin working out soon after the team returns from the three-day road trip on Thursday.
"We'll see how I feel and a few days after that, maybe I can do a rehab and do whatever they're going to do with me and start playing games," Corporan said.
Corporan is making progress every day, but is still having frequent headaches. He's scheduled to see a specialist on Monday, though a CT scan performed Friday came up negative. Meanwhile, Corporan is trying to stay away from watching TV or staring at his cell phone screen while getting as much sleep as possible.
"I'm going to relax for two days and whenever they come back from the road trip, that's when I'm going to start working out and doing all my regular stuff and see how I feel," Corporan said. "If I feel good, we'll see what they're going to do with me and see if they send me to rehab."
Clark nearly plays hero in first career start
HOUSTON -- So what that he didn't come through with the game-winning hit in the bottom of the ninth inning in Sunday's 2-1 loss to the Blue Jays. Catcher Cody Clark's first career start in the Major Leagues was nothing short of the thrill of a lifetime.
Clark, who was called up Friday following 11 years in the Minors, went 0-for-4, but he threw out a pair of runners trying to steal second and helped starter Dallas Keuchel throw seven scoreless innings.
What made the day special for Clark, though, was that his grandfather, C.L. Guinn, was in the stands to watch him play. It was a surprise trip from Arkansas arranged by his parents, who were among 28 friends and family members in the stands. Clark's grandmother, Wilma, died on March 8.
"It was amazing. My grandfather is 91 years old and he showed up today," Clark said. "It was amazing. I lost my grandma during Spring Training and it's been tough on him, but it just meant so much he was here today."
Clark nearly had his first Major League hit when he lined out to a diving Jose Reyes at shortstop in the fifth inning, but he threw out Reyes trying to steal in the eighth inning.
"He made a nice play and got his glove on it," Clark said of his game-ending groundout against Casey Janssen.
Clark had a chance to play hero in the ninth inning when he came to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs, but he was thrown out after hitting a chopper that hit off the pitcher's hand and was handled by the second baseman.
That did little to ruin his day.
"I was really nervous coming to the field today, but once we got going I kind of settled down a little bit and tried to take it pitch by pitch," Clark said.
Clark's debut came in his 11th professional season. He has spent time with the Rangers (2003-05), Braves (2006) and Royals (2007-12) organizations before being signed by the Astros prior to this season. He spent most of the year at Triple-A, hitting a combined .212 with one homer and 13 RBIs between Oklahoma City and Double-A Corpus Christi.