Altuve sparks Astros' offense in Grapefruit League debut

Second baseman singles in first spring at-bat to start three-run first

Altuve sparks Astros' offense in Grapefruit League debut

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Jose Altuve picked up where he left off last year.

Altuve, the reigning American League batting champion, beat out an infield single in his first at-bat of the Grapefruit League season, sparking a three-run first inning against Yankees starter Scott Baker on Saturday afternoon at Osceola County Stadium.

The Yankees got solo home runs from Ramon Flores and Jake Cave, and added six runs in the top of the ninth to rally for a 9-4 win. Rob Refsnyder delivered a tiebreaking two-run single and Greg Bird added a two-run homer for the Yanks.

Altuve, who led the Majors last year with a .341 batting average and had a franchise-record 225 hits, was in the lineup for the first time for the Astros and went 1-for-3. Houston batted around in the first inning, getting two RBIs from Chris Carter on a bases-loaded double.

"I felt better than I thought," Altuve said. "I was at home plate kind of lost in my first at-bat and I got the hit and got two more at-bats that made me feel more comfortable."

Baker needed 29 pitches to make it through the first inning for the Yankees, giving up three runs -- all earned -- and six hits, five of which were singles.

Astros starter Dallas Keuchel, who won a Gold Glove in his breakout season of a year ago, held the Yankees to one hit and one walk in two innings in his first start of the spring.

"There were a few things I wanted to accomplish, just attacking the strike zone," Keuchel said. "I felt I did a good job of that in the first inning and came out pretty loopy in the second. There's a lot of room for improvement and that's why there are five or six Spring Training starts, and I look to build on that come Wednesday."

Up next for the Astros: The Astros will have a split squad Sunday, with one game at home at Osceola County Stadium against the Braves and another against the Tigers in Lakeland, Fla. Astros manager A.J. Hinch said he'll travel to Lakeland to watch right-hander Dan Straily pitch in his Houston debut, and bench coach Trey Hillman will stay back in Kissimmee and watch Scott Feldman pitch. Both games can be heard live on Gameday Audio.

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for 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.