Correa returns to Astros' lineup with homer

Correa returns to Astros' lineup with homer

HOUSTON -- After missing four consecutive games with a sore left hamstring, shortstop Carlos Correa returned to the Astros' starting lineup on Monday, batting in his usual three-hole for the series opener against the Mariners in Houston's 8-3 win.

After singling in the first and striking out in the third, Correa belted his 16th homer of the season, a two-run shot to left, for a 5-1 Astros lead in the fifth inning. His 16 homers are the second-most by a big league shortstop younger than 21 (Alex Rodriguez hit 26 before his 21st birthday).

"[I knew it was a home run]," said Correa. "I was out for six days, but I still know what it feels like to hit a homer."

After the last of his on-field tests to determine his availability, Correa said he was feeling the best he had over the last few days, passing the tests that included lateral movement, backward movement and side-to-side movement.

Correa continued to hit throughout his absence from the lineup and Astros manager A.J. Hinch said Monday's work simulated every situation possible, aside from real game situations.

"He's been itching to play for a day or two. Players inherently will always want to play a day too early, and those in my chair will always wait a day too long," Hinch said before Monday's series opener. "He's worked very hard and diligent in his treatments and we feel comfortable about it."

The Astros went 2-2 in Correa's absence and entered Monday three games up in the American League West over the surging Rangers -- all the more reason for Correa to be eager to see the field again.

"We're in a playoff run, and we want to make the playoffs, so I want to be able to be out there playing for the team," Correa said. "We've got an important month coming up, and we're going to play a lot of games against our division, so we're going to go out there and try to perform and win ballgames."

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