HOUSTON -- The addition of shortstop Jonathan Villar, who made his Major League debut on Monday, at the top of the lineup has given the Astros a much-needed speed element when combined with second baseman Jose Altuve hitting second.
That was on display Tuesday when Villar hit a one-out double in the ninth inning of a 4-4 game and raced around to score the winning run on a botched pickoff attempt by A's catcher Derek Norris. Villar's aggressive play gave the Astros a 5-4 win over Oakland, their first in 11 tries this season.
"Once I saw the ball take off for first base, I knew at least Villar was going to make it to third at that juncture," manager Bo Porter said. "[Norris] threw the ball low and the ball ends up in right field, and Villar just being a baseball player, came all the way home for the game-winning run."
Porter said he plans to leave Villar and Altuve in the first two spots in the batting order for the time being.
"The goal is to try to get Villar as many at-bats as we possibly can between now and the end of the season," Porter said. "He possesses the skill sets you look for in a leadoff hitter. He's not afraid to hit with two strikes, he can play the short game, he's a run-producer and can drive in runs."
Villar certainly can run. He had 16 doubles, eight triples and 31 stolen bases in 90 games at Triple-A Oklahoma City. Altuve, meanwhile, entered Tuesday with 22 stolen bases, which ranked fourth in the American League.
"The more guys you have in your everyday lineup that can steal bases or go first to third, it puts more pressure on the defense," Porter said. "It seems as you start to look around and have Villar and Altuve and [Brandon] Barnes and [Justin] Maxwell, you have some guys that push the envelope and put pressure on opposing pitchers."
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.