Downs in starting lineup for first time

Downs in starting lineup for first time

WASHINGTON -- It took nearly two weeks into the regular season, but infielder Matt Downs finally was in the starting lineup for the first time on Thursday. Downs, who has been limited to six pinch-hit at-bats, started at third base and hit sixth in the lineup. He had one of three triples for the Astros in the first inning against the Nationls.

"It's kind of hard to get your timing early in the year with an at-bat here and at-bat there, and it's always good to get three or four at-bats in one night to try to get some timing and track some pitches and see some balls," Downs said. "[Manager Brad Mills] was good about getting me in there last year."

Downs, who led the Majors with 15 pinch-hit RBIs last year and averaged a homer every 19.9 at-bats, was hitless in his first six at-bats entering Tuesday.

Mills wanted to give him a start earlier in the year, but third baseman Chris Johnson and second baseman Jose Altuve - the starters at the two positions which Downs is most likely to play on defense - were off to hot starts at the plate.

"It's hard to pull a guy out of there if he's hitting real well, and I don't blame him," Downs said.

Mills said Downs will likely get at least one start this weekend against either Dodgers left-handers Ted Lilly (Friday) and Clayton Kershaw (Saturday).