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Astros excited about top of the order

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KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- You can't blame manager Bo Porter for being giddy about the potential of the three hitters at the top of his lineup -- center fielder Dexter Fowler, second baseman Jose Altuve and catcher Jason Castro.

The first inning of Saturday's loss to the Yankees provided a glimpse of what the three hitters are capable of, with Fowler leading off with a single, Altuve moving him to third on a hit-and-run single and Castro smacking a two-run double to left field.

The Astros moved Altuve, who was their best player in 2012, all over the lineup last year, because they didn't have a prime leadoff hitter. The acquisition of Fowler in a trade with the Rockies allowed them to plug Altuve into the No. 2 spot, where he could flourish.

"I said it openly at the beginning of camp last year ... you have to have a guy in front of him who's going to be on base, that can steal a base, that understands situational baserunning," Porter said. "Frankly put, we didn't have that on our team last year, which made it tough to slot him [at No. 2] and keep him there. If you don't have that guy, you're better off putting him in the one hole and get some extra at-bats."

Altuve should see more fastballs from the two-slot with a base-stealing threat like Fowler on base ahead of him.

"It's a pretty good combination of having a guy who was on base at a high percentage and a guy hitting behind him who can really handle the bat," Porter said. "It can really put a lot of pressure on the other team. That's why I love having those two guys at the top of the lineup."

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.

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