The Sports Xchange

MLB Team Report - Houston Astros - INSIDE PITCH

HOUSTON -- With designated hitter Chris Carter in the midst of the hottest stretch of his career, Houston Astros manager Bo Porter welcomed back veteran center fielder Dexter Fowler by inserting him into the fourth slot in the batting order, a move designed to provide Carter, who hits third, additional protection as teams adjust their pitching strategies.

Carter entered Wednesday leading the major leagues in home runs (15), slugging percentage (.732), on-base-plus-slugging percentage (1.104) and RBIs (36) since July 1. Naturally, teams have grown more wary with how they pitch to Carter.

"I've watched it the past three-and-a-half, four weeks," Porter said. "They're pitching him very careful and what we're seeing now is when they make mistakes, he's not missing them."

Fowler, a switch hitter, was batting .270/.377/.396 before missing 40 games with a right intercostal strain. He hit leadoff 33 times, second 23 times and third 19 times before going on the disabled list June 27. Wednesday marked the first time Fowler batted cleanup and he went 1-for-3 with a walk while Carter finished 2-for-4 with an RBI single in the Astros' 3-1 loss to the Twins.

"You look at the way Carter is swinging the bat I actually like having (second baseman Jose) Altuve hitting in front of him," Porter said. "The way (left fielder Robbie) Grossman has been swinging the bat out of the leadoff spot, and then you look at the fact you put Dexter, a proven major league hitter, behind Carter, it adds some protection to Carter in those situations where they may think about walking him or think about trying to match up."

-----------------------------------------------

MLB Team Report - Houston Astros - NOTES, QUOTES

RECORD: 50-71

STREAK: Lost one

NEXT: Astros (RHP Scott Feldman, 6-8, 4.14 ERA) at Red Sox (RHP Allen Webster, 2-1, 4.91 ERA)

PLAYER NOTES:

--DH Chris Carter finished 2-for-4 with an RBI single in the eighth inning off Twins RHP Kyle Gibson, marking his seventh consecutive game with an RBI. Carter finished with four home runs and 11 RBIs in six games against the Twins this season.

--LHP Brett Oberholtzer allowed one run on six hits over seven innings, making his 11th consecutive outing with at least six innings pitched. He has allowed no more than three runs in his last six outings and has posted a 2.63 ERA over that span. This marked the fourth start this season in which Oberholtzer did not walk a batter.

--CF Dexter Fowler went 1-for-3 with a walk in his first game back from the 15-day disabled list. Fowler missed 40 games with a right intercostal strain, during which time the Astros went 16-24. He upped his on-base percentage to .379.

--LHP Tony Sipp retired both batters her faced, Twins LF Jordan Schafer and RF Oswaldo Arcia, in the eighth inning, lowering his batting average against left-handed hitters to .127 (8-for-63) this season. Sipp entered play Wednesday sixth in the majors in that category.

--1B/LF Jesus Guzman will began a rehab assignment with Triple-A Oklahoma City on Thursday. Guzman missed his 11th game Wednesday after landing on the 15-day disabled list with back spasms on Aug. 2.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "That's baseball. I felt like I pitched pretty well and gave the team a chance to win." -- Astros LHP Brett Oberholtzer after a loss to Minnesota on Wednesday.