- Associated Press - Sunday, March 13, 2016

KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) - Jose Altuve hit a three-run homer and the Houston Astros beat the Atlanta Braves 7-6 on Sunday.

“I hit the ball in the air and the wind helped a little bit, but I’m happy because I did my job,” the All-Star second baseman said. “In that situation I had a man on third base, less than two outs. I’m just trying to hit a good pitch and bring him in.”

Altuve’s first home run this spring put the Astros ahead during a six-run fourth against relievers Matt Marksberry and Rob Wooten. Colby Rasmus and Jason Castro each had an RBI double in the inning.

The 5-foot-6 Altuve hit a career-high 15 homers last season.

“Pound for pound he’s got as much power as anybody. He’s got a real swing and real power,” Houston manager A.J. Hinch said. “He’s not always asked upon to swing like it, but his bat-to-ball skills are so good that if he gets a good pitch to hit, he can do anything with it.”

Altuve’s steady production helped the Astros capture an AL wild card last year.

“Obviously, it was a pretty good year for me and the team,” Altuve said. “I’ll take that for the rest of my career, 15 homers per year. I think that’s pretty good.”

Two hits by Erick Aybar and Adonis Garcia’s two-run homer off Houston starter Doug Fister helped the Braves take a 4-1 lead before the Astros rallied.

Aybar finished with three hits, and Ender Inciarte had a triple and a double for Atlanta.

Fister and Wandy Rodriguez, candidates for the Astros’ starting rotation, pitched three innings apiece.


Braves: Matt Wisler gave up one run and two hits while striking out three in 2 2-3 innings. “I’ve got some small things I’ve got to fix,” he said. “My fastball command wasn’t that sharp. I got behind some guys today, but overall I’m pretty happy.”

Astros: Fister allowed three runs and six hits in his third start. Garcia’s homer came on a high strike the 6-foot-8 right-hander is trying to establish. “There’s a fine line there, and I haven’t quite found that line yet,” Fister said.


Braves: C Tyler Flowers caught four innings, playing in the field for the first time since straining his hamstring a week ago.

Astros: C Max Stassi was sent back to Houston to have his left hand X-rayed by team doctors. “For us to send him back to Houston, that means that we obviously have concerns, based on the initial diagnosis,” Hinch said. … RHP Luke Gregerson (left oblique) will probably pitch in a game for the first time Wednesday or Thursday.


Houston left-hander Neal Cotts entered with two runners on in the fourth inning and faced only one batter. Freddie Freeman’s 410-foot drive was caught near the top of the wall by center fielder Carlos Gomez. Cotts got the win.


Braves: RHP Julio Teheran will face the Tampa Bay Rays at Disney World in his second start of the spring.

Astros: AL Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel makes his second start, at Viera against Washington.

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