Originally posted on Fox Sports Houston  |  Last updated 5/5/12
HOUSTON Perhaps the move would have gone unnoticedor deemed insignificant had Astros manager Brad Mills not explicitly mentionedpregame Saturday that right fielder Brian Bogusevic was batting second. Most were focused on the absence of Jordan Schafer from the lineup, a move oflate that subsequently shifts second baseman Jose Altuve up one spot in theorder to lead off. But instead of elevating shortstop Jed Lowrie into the2-hole, Mills opted for something new. To little surprise the decision paid immediate dividends as Bogusevic, battingin the top half of the lineup for the first time this season, drew the pivotalwalk that ignited a breakout first inning which in turn yielded the Astros' 8-2victory over the Cardinals at Minute Maid Park. "Flexibility is a good word because that's exactly what we're able to do.Guys can do different things," Mills said. "You saw Bogey (Bogusevic)start that bottom of the first by getting a walk. You say, well, (the Cardinalsstarted) a left-hander (Jamie Garcia), but Bogey has been hitting left-handerspretty good (.294 entering Saturday) and doing a real good job for us ofgetting on (.344 on-base percentage).That showed tonight, at least in that first inning to startus off." That first inning was all the Astros (13-14) needed. Bogusevic fouled off apair of 3-2 pitches a fastball and a slider before taking the walk andsetting the table for Carlos Lee and Lowrie to follow with walks of their own.Chris Johnson levied the big blow, cranking an 0-2 pitch into the CrawfordBoxes for his first career grand slam and a 4-1 lead after Bud Norris stumbleda bit in the top of the first. Lineup flexibility has come to the forefront during the Astros' five-gamewinning streak. After batting as low as eighth for a puzzling seven gamesearlier this season, Altuve has become entrenched in the 2-hole when he isn'tsubbing for Schafer atop the order. Justin Maxwell, who filled in for Schaferand went 2-for-3 with two doubles and an RBI, had led off twice, but the Astroswere 0-2 in those games. With Altuve atop the batting order for a second time,the Astros remained unbeaten. Batting Bogusevic second was an interesting choice, but bolstering his .222average are 15 free passes (12 walks and three hit by pitches). His powerpotential (six extra-base hits) and speed (four stolen bases) make Bogusevicone of several adaptable options for Mills. "We do have a lot of guys that are versatile," said Johnson, whomoved from seventh to sixth in the order with Bogusevic batting second."Bogey can move up or down just because he can run, he can hit for power(and) he gets on base a lot so he's a guy that can move around. Altuve hasshown that he can get three hits anywhere he's hitting. "We've got a lot of guys that can go different places, and we're justtrying to figure out who we are." Lowrie could be the key to the Astros offense. With Schafer (leadoff), J.D.Martinez (third) and Lee (cleanup) rigid fixtures, Lowrie has proven especiallyfunctional no matter if he's between Schafer and Martinez with Altuve down theorder, or providing protection for Lee. Saturday marked his sixth start batting fifth, with his slash line of.381.381.524 validating Mills' decision to keep him in that spot for a thirdconsecutive game. In three games batting third Lowrie hit .455.500.727. Hehas 10 starts batting second, and from that slot Lowrie is hitting.316.469.500. In recent history, batting second and third are new venturesfor Lowrie, who amassed the bulk of his plate appearances with the Red Sox lastseason batting fifth through seventh. In Boston, Lowrie produced an .830 OPS batting fifth in 2011, significantlybetter than his output at any place in the order in which he earned 20-plusplate appearances. For his career, Lowrie has been more prolific batting second(.923 OPS in 168 plate appearances), but the emergence of Altuve in addition towhat Lowrie has provided batting fifth he went 1-for-3 with a walk and atwo-run homer on Saturday leaves Mills in the position of having a multitudeof alternatives to consider. "It seems like every year I've moved around the lineup," said Lowrie,who paces the Astros in homers (four) and slugging (.545). "I think I'm agood 2-hole hitter but it's all dependent on the team need. Wherever Millsyneeds me, I'm going to do my best not to change who I am as a player. I think mygame is getting on base and getting big hits." Follow me on Twitter at moisekapenda
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