Hinch wants emphasis on situational hitting

Hinch wants emphasis on situational hitting

HOUSTON -- The Astros entered play on Saturday tied for sixth in the American League in runs scored, but they've also left a lot of runs on the table. Houston began the day 11th in the AL in batting average with runners in scoring position (.205), 13th in batting average with runners in scoring position and two outs (.132) and hitting .193 overall with two outs.

Manager A.J. Hinch said the team preaches about the importance of situational hitting and works on it during batting practice, but that can't replicate game action.

"More than anything, most situational hitting is more mental and being able to slow your body down and not trying to do too much and taking what the game gives you," Hinch said. "One of the things we preach here is [to] take what the game gives you. If it gives you a ground ball to second with a guy on third, we don't have to hit a two-run homer, we don't have to drive the ball into the gap. Sometimes the game doesn't give you that."

Hinch wants his players to be mentally prepared for each at-bat and try to avoid the things that can kill a rally, such as hitting a grounder to third when you need to move a runner or grounding out when you need to just hit a sac fly to get a run home from third.

"The mistakes and the successes have to align with convincing everybody the approach is right," Hinch said. "It's hard to go against guys that are paid to get you out."

• The Astros won't face their first left-handed starting pitcher of the season until next week in Arlington, where Cole Hamels is scheduled to throw one of the games for the Rangers. Facing only right-handers so far, the Astros haven't been able to get some players, such as outfielder Jake Marisnick, consistent at-bats.

Marisnick, a right-handed hitter whose career average is better against right-handers but who has a much higher OPS against lefties, entered Saturday with only five at-bats -- the fewest on the club.

"Obviously, everybody wants to play, but it's a good problem to have," Marisnick said. "You have guys out there that need to be playing. I just need to be ready and make sure I get my work in and when my name is called be ready to go."

• Hinch would like right-hander Lance McCullers to throw again on Sunday or Monday before the team flies to Dallas for the series against the Rangers. McCullers had been scheduled to make his second rehab start at Double-A Corpus Christi but has experienced continued soreness.

"He was penciled into our rotation from the get-go, so I don't like not having him," Hinch said. "My concern is getting him back to full strength, and until then he's unavailable. I ask all the questions I can, I try not to circle any date on the calendar, because I don't want to be disappointed he can't make it. I'll be happy when he gets back, because he's one of our better guys."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.