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."
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.