Originally posted on Fox Sports Houston  |  Last updated 5/2/12
HOUSTON What was an atypical showcase of power overshadowed what was an otherwise routine offensive performance by the Astros. Jed Lowrie and Chris Snyder bashed multi-run home runs and staked left-hander J.A. Happ to an early lead that he didn't relinquish in the Astros' 6-3 victory over the Mets on Tuesday night at Minute Maid Park. Homers garner attention. They are loud and ostentatious and typically accompanied by some sort of faux explosion and scoreboard display. Because the Astros hit so few home runs, it was easy to be transfixed by what Lowrie and Synder accomplished. It felt rare and was welcomed. Meanwhile, atop the order, Jose Altuve and Lowrie teamed to reach base seven times in 10 plate appearances and combined to draw four walks. The Astros (10-14) managed eight walks against Mets (13-11) pitching. By and large, accumulating base runners is nothing new this season. "I think maybe it's a combination of things," said Astros right fielder Brian Bogusevic, whose 10 walks are tied for third on the team with center field Jordan Schafer and behind left fielder J.D. Martinez (18) and Lowrie (12). "It's probably a concentrated effort that was addressed in spring training, and something that was brought to people's attention that it's something we've wanted to try to do. And I think it's also a bit of a side effect of guys having been here a little bit longer. "At the end of the year last year we had a lot of guys in the lineup who didn't have a whole lot of Major-League at-bats. As an athlete your mindset is to be aggressive. You're an aggressive player, and you might be looking to jump on the first thing that you see that looks good. So it's a combination of being a point of focus and concentrating on doing that, and guys being more comfortable going deeper into counts and at-bats." Clearly the Astros were victims of their inexperience late last season. They closed 2011 ranked last in the National League in walk rate at 6.5 walks per 100 plate appearances. They finished 11th in the NL in on-base percentage (.311) and, intrinsically, 13th in runs scored (615). The Astros didn't flex power last season either, finishing 15th in the NL with 95 home runs and 13th in slugging percentage (.374). They've been bereft of power through 24 games, but their tendency to reach base at such an improved clip has diminished their need to rely on the three-run homer that Synder supplied in the second inning off Jonathon Niese. Entering Tuesday the Astros were fourth in the NL in on-base percentage (.330) and runs scored (104), and sixth in walk rate (9.1 percent). The correlation between getting on base and scoring could not be more evident, particularly given the Astros' static slugging numbers. "These guys are developing," Astros manager Brad Mills said. "I'd like to say that it was everything we did in spring training, but that's not the case. These guys are doing a real good job of working hard on things like that and trying to get good pitches to hit, and that's become important. "It's showing because we're getting on base and giving ourselves the opportunity." The sample sizes are small but the examples of development are plentiful. Altuve (7.4 percent walk rate), Martinez (17.9 percent) and Schafer (10.1 percent) have shown increases in their walk rate relative to their abbreviated stints with the Astros late last season. By working deeper into counts and exhausting opposing pitchers the Astros have created additional scoring opportunities. Combined with their clutch hitting the Astros led the NL in batting with runners in scoring position (.302) through games played Monday the Astros have managed just fine without Earl Weaver managing from their dugout. Of course, they would like some pop to compliment their patience. If improvement is contagious in one category, it isn't a stretch of the imagination to surmise that the Astros could bolster their slugging, too. "I wouldn't look too deep into it," Snyder said of the Astros' paltry 16 home runs. "We play in a great hitters' park. It's not one of those things where you shouldn't expect to see a lot of power from this team." Follow me on Twitter at moisekapenda
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