Power display erases Valbuena's slow start

Power display erases Valbuena's slow start

SEATTLE -- Luis Valbuena continues to swing a hot stick for the Astros, blasting a pair of home runs in Monday's 7-5 win over the Mariners at Safeco Field to give him five home runs on the season -- all in the last seven games.

Valbuena, acquired in a trade with the Cubs, won the starting third-base job with a hot spring, and in the past week, he has overcome a slow start with an impressive display of power. He hit a solo shot in the first inning on Monday off Hisashi Iwakuma and broke a 5-5 tie with another solo blast in the eighth, this one off Danny Farquhar.

"No, no, no, I'm not surprised," Valbuena said of his power surge. "That's why I work in the cage and practice. I try to hit the ball hard every at-bat. I'm so happy for that."

So is manager A.J. Hinch, whose team has rolled off three consecutive wins to remain in first place in the American League West. That's despite the Astros being last in the league in batting average and runs scored entering Monday.

"We're still in early April, or mid-April at least, and I've never sensed any sort of concern from our hitters," Hinch said. "Obviously, the more success you have, the more energy it looks like you have and the more you feel part of the wins. It's nice to have some big hits."

After starting the season 0-for-10, Valbuena is hitting .323 with five homers and seven RBIs in the past eight games. He's hit safely in seven of those games, including three multihit contests.

"He was the Grapefruit League player of spring," Hinch said. "He was incredible all spring. We expected him to be good. He's obviously coming around. This last week he has been about as hot as anybody, and he's doing some damage with his swing. He's played a good third base, he's a good baseball player and I'm glad he's on our club. I love having him around."

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.