Altuve continues power surge in latest victory

Second baseman matches career high with seventh homer on Monday

Altuve continues power surge in latest victory

HOUSTON -- With a batting title in tow, Jose Altuve's already known as a high-average hitter. But the star second baseman is starting to tap into some power.

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"Everybody feels he's already arrived," said Astros manager A.J. Hinch after Monday's 6-1 win against the Royals. "People might not expect it out of him, but he puts barrel contact on the ball a lot and he's learning how to drive the ball."

Altuve drove Joe Blanton's second pitch of the third inning into the Crawford Boxes on Monday for his seventh home run -- already tying his career high, which he set in 2012 and 2014. The home run was a catalyst for a three-run inning that turned a tenuous 2-0 lead into a 5-0 cushion that was plenty for rookie starter Lance McCullers.

Altuve, who trails Royals' second baseman Omar Infante by 231,708 votes after All-Star Game balloting was released Monday, downplayed the tight race between the two Venezuelans before the game, saying he's always looked up to Infante -- whom Altuve called one of the best position players to come from Venezuela.

Infante, who trails Altuve in batting average, home runs and RBIs, embraced Altuve during batting practice and the two shared a quick word.

"I am just pretty happy, honored to be among the top spots from the fans," Infante said after Monday's game. "There are lots of guys having great seasons, like that guy [Altuve] and Kipnis in [Cleveland], I know that. You always hope to be an All-Star, so we'll see how it goes."

Whether Altuve starts in Cincinnati or not, Hinch said the power he's displayed already this season is just the beginning of the diminutive dynamo's development as put-together hitter.

"This guy is just tapping into the well-rounded hitter he can be," Hinch said.

Chandler Rome is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.