Gattis impresses at plate, and behind it

Gattis impresses at plate, and behind it

HOUSTON -- Evan Gattis always looks the part of a slugger. Even when he shaved his signature beard prior to this season, his burly figure and mammoth arms just make him look like he's built for power.

Since returning from a Minor League stint earlier this month, during which he worked on playing catcher, Gattis has shown off that power in great measure, and he did it again in Houston's 4-3 win against Baltimore on Wednesday night.

Pressed into catching duty after Tuesday's 13-inning affair, Gattis kickstarted another Houston power surge en route to a win with a two-run screaming liner that barely cleared the left-field porch in Minute Maid Park, putting Houston up, 3-1, in the fourth inning.

"He's a real threat, he's a real danger, especially in this ballpark, when he doesn't have to try to do too much to pull," Houston manager A.J. Hinch said. "Anything he hits to left is essentially off that scoreboard or over. And that brings some comfort for him."

Hinch on victory over Orioles

Gattis has added an extra dimension to Houston's dormant #CrushCity moniker -- a popular hashtag when Houston launched 230 homers last season. Gattis has four home runs while recording a hit in seven of eight games since his time with Double-A Corpus Christi.

Hitch said he thought Gattis, who missed much of the preseason with a hernia issue, treated the 10-day stay in Corpus Christi as a Spring Training to sort his swing out.

"Maybe so, maybe that's [it]," Gattis said of the everyday at-bats at Double-A improving his timing. "Just consistency is always good. Might've needed that."

Luis Valbuena added the go-ahead solo shot in the sixth, his second consecutive night with a homer. The Astros now have hit long balls in four straight games, their best power stretch of the season.

But Gattis wasn't limited to the plate for his production, even though he also added a double in the eighth inning.

Instead, his teammates and Hinch were keen to see him catch, the reason for his "demotion" in the first place. The Astros furiously pushed him through a training routine behind the plate so that Gattis could be the backup catcher and save a roster spot.

In just his second start behind the dish, Gattis again impressed, even despite a wild pitch that scored one of Baltimore's runs in the sixth.

"I threw a lot of curveballs today, and a lot of short curves, too," starter Collin McHugh said after his 10-strikeout effort. "Gattis did a great job back there of basically tackling balls when they were 50 feet."

McHugh strikes out 10

Hitch, himself a former backstop, was no less effusive.

"He worked his tail off behind the plate, and you catch a winner and get some hits, that's about as good a feeling as you can get as a catcher," Hinch said.

"For him, he's catching some of these guys for the first time, especially the bullpen guys."

That inexperience with the staff didn't exactly show. The Astros struck out 18 Orioles, with Ken Giles, Will Harris and Luke Gregerson accounting for seven in the final three frames.

Gattis, who caught in Atlanta for two years but had mostly been a designated hitter in Houston, saw his teammates from a different perspective.

"Awesome stuff they've got," Gattis said. "Not surprised, but just filthy."

That sentiment extended to his pitchers, surprised at neither Gattis' prodigious power or scrappy work with the catcher's mitt.

"He's a big league catcher, and we've known it for a while," McHugh said. "Just good to get him back there and get his feet back under him."

Chris Abshire is a contributor to MLB.com based in Houston. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.