Altuve makes first start of year in leadoff role

Altuve makes first start of year in leadoff role

HOUSTON -- For the first time this season, second baseman Jose Altuve was in the leadoff spot on Tuesday. With center fielder Jordan Schafer nursing a strained oblique and given the day off, Altuve was in the top spot in the order for the fifth time in his career.

"I was playing around with [the lineup] in the clubhouse and said, 'Have you ever hit leadoff?' And he said, 'Yeah, I hit leadoff for two years [in the Minor Leagues],'" manager Brad Mills said. "I said, 'I think you're going to be a good fit for us today.' He agreed, and I'm anxious to see how he hits at the top of the lineup."

Carlos Lee, who sprained his ankle on Friday, returned to the lineup Tuesday in his customary No. 4 spot, with Jed Lowrie hitting second and J.D. Martinez hitting third. Matt Downs, who's homered in two consecutive games, started at third in place of Chris Johnson, and Justin Maxwell was in center in place of Schafer.

Altuve, who hit an infield single in his first at-bat, entered Tuesday ranked first in the National League with 12 multi-hit games and was third in batting average.

"He started the season hitting eighth and he was a great eighth hitter and it didn't stop," Mills said. "He kept swinging the bat so well, we said, 'You know what, we need put him back in the two spot,' and he's done exceedingly well. We'll put him at the top of the order on a short-term basis and there's no reason to think he won't succeed."