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Astros beat 8/8

August 8, 2010

Keppinger moves to third spot in lineup

MILWAUKEE — With the way Jeff Keppinger has been hitting this season, his manager said he would be comfortable batting him just about anywhere in the lineup.

Anywhere included the No. 3 spot on Sunday as Astros manager Brad Mills shook up his lineup a bit in the series finale with the Brewers.

“I like Hunter [Pence] behind the guys who are getting on base,” Mills said. “Hunter seems to find some way to get hits. It might not be the prettiest thing all the time, but he finds ways to get hits.”

Keppinger, along with Michael Bourn and Angel Sanchez, has been as consistent as anyone in the Houston lineup when it comes to getting on base. Entering the game Sunday, Keppinger, Sanchez and Bourn had on-base percentages of .355, .353 and .328, respectively.

Only rookies Brett Wallace (.409) and Chris Johnson (.383) had higher on-base percentages than Keppinger. But with the inexperience of Wallace and Johnson, the manager preferred them in the No. 6 and No. 7 spots.

“He’ll do a good job in any spot,” Mills said of Keppinger. “He continues to get on and have good at-bats. If we can get that guy hitting in front of Hunter, we’ll be all right.”

Sanchez’s bunt attempt earns Mills’ praise

MILWAUKEE — With a runner on and one out in the seventh on Saturday, rookie shortstop Angel Sanchez laid down a bunt toward third base that looked like a sure base hit.

Brewers left-hander Randy Wolf had other ideas, though, as he made a spectacular defensive play for the out, which later earned Wolf the night’s top “Web Gem” on ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight.”

Despite the outcome, manager Brad Mills praised the decision of Sanchez.

“Angel did a good job of giving it a shot there to get the inning going,” Mills said. “It was a good time to do it.”

Sanchez has been impressive since he was acquired from the Red Sox, solidifying the shortstop position in the absence of Tommy Manzella and Geoff Blum.

Most impressive to his manager, though, has been his comfort level with just doing what he’s capable of and not trying to do more than that.

“That’s what he does, he stays in his lane,” Mills said. “That’s all he has to do. When guys try to do more than they can do or they get out of their lane, sometimes you don’t know what to expect. It’s nice if you can pencil a guy in and you know what to expect.

“He’s going to have some good at-bats. He’s going to be able to move runners, he’s going to drive some guys in at times. That’s huge.”

Astros hope younger lineup helps future

MILWAUKEE — When the Astros opened the season, they had question marks all over the field, except the outfield. Looking at Sunday’s lineup, the outfield remained the same as Opening Day, and the rest was far from it.

Every infield position had a different starter Sunday than the Astros had for the first game of the season. With that in mind, manager Brad Mills hoped the end of this season would make for a better start to the next.

“That’s the biggest thing about being able to play young guys at the end of the season,” Mills said. “So you’re able to answer questions about them going into the following year, because you can’t always find out that many answers in Spring Training.”

That difference between Spring Training and the regular season is one reason Mills is an advocate for bringing up Minor League players and playing a younger lineup when the roster can be expanded in September.

Although he acknowledged that September is not exactly like the first five months of the season, Mills still thinks experience in the season’s final month is more valuable than Spring Training.

“The season is a different animal,” Mills said. “[September] is different, but at the same time it’s closer to it than Spring Training, with the fans in the stands and the times of day and the travel. It might not be the same, but it’s as close as you’re going to be able to get. So you can still answer some questions because of that.”

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

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