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News » Driving in runs comes naturally to Carlos Lee, who is ablaze in May and on pace for 132 RBIs HOME DELIVERY IS HIS SPECIALTY Astr


Driving in runs comes naturally to Carlos Lee, who is ablaze in May and on pace for 132 RBIs HOME DELIVERY IS HIS SPECIALTY Astr


Driving in runs comes naturally to Carlos Lee, who is ablaze in May and on pace for 132 RBIs HOME DELIVERY IS HIS SPECIALTY Astr
Astros update

Sunday: Astros 12, Padres 5.

Record: 14-17.

Today: At Colorado, 7:40 p.m.

Pitchers: Felipe Paulino (1-2) vs. Ubaldo Jimenez (2-4).

TV/radio: FSH; 740 AM and 1010 AM (Spanish).

Carlos Lee stepped to the plate with a runner at second base in the sixth inning Saturday and quickly fell behind 0-2 in the count.

Time to panic?

Lee, the Astros' left fielder and cleanup hitter, had Padres righthander Kevin Correia exactly where he wanted him.

Lee took a pitch, then another, until he patiently worked a full count. Advantage: Lee.

"My concentration level doubles when I have people on base," said Lee, who responded with a game-tying single up the middle in the Astros' eventual 5-4 comeback victory over San Diego. "When there are people on base, I'm trying to get the right pitch and drive it."

There hasn't been a wrong pitch - or situation - for Lee in 10 games this month. He's batting a major league-best .500 (19-for-38) during that span to help offset the absence of first baseman Lance Berkman, who's hitting .184 and sat out the last three games with a sore left wrist.

During the weekend sweep of the Padres, Lee went 9-for-12 with a home run and six RBIs.

"Check his numbers," Astros manager Cecil Cooper said. "Carlos is just an RBI machine. That's what he does."

Through five weeks, Lee is seventh in the National League with 26 RBIs and eighth with a .333 batting average. On his current pace, Lee would finish with a career-high 132 RBIs.

When talking about Lee, Cooper said "there is no better guy to have" at the plate with runners in scoring position. The reason, Cooper said, is the adjustments Lee makes - whether shortening up his swing or getting lower in his stance - depending on the situation.

End result: Runs

With two outs and a runner on second in his first at-bat Sunday, Lee hit an RBI single to left field. Faced with a 1-1 count in his next plate appearance, Lee patiently took three straight pitches to load the bases and set up a two-run single by Miguel Tejada. With a runner on in the fourth, Lee simply jumped on the first pitch for an RBI double. Of course, there's also the straightforward approach, a la his two-run homer in the eighth.

"I've said for a while that I think Carlos is the most underrated hitter in the game," Berkman said. "He's a fabulous run producer. It's not easy to do what he does. If there's a runner in scoring position, he's going to get a hit. When he doesn't you're like, ?What happened?'?"

Lee, who is in his third season with the Astros , admits he is a different hitter with runners in scoring position, and the numbers support his claim. He's batting .317 with no runners on base, compared to .389 with runners on second and third.

"When there's nobody on, I'm a different hitter," Lee said. "I'm trying to drive the ball and do a lot of different things."

Not a free swinger

Cooper said another advantage to Lee's presence in the middle of the order is his patience. During the past three seasons, Lee has averaged nearly as many walks (49) as strikeouts (59).

"For a slugger, that's good," Cooper said. "That means he's putting the ball in play and giving himself a chance."

Even though his timing has been impeccable for the Astros , Lee said he has not taken it upon himself to carry the offensive load with Berkman struggling. Lee and No. 3 hitter Tejada combined to go 12-for-23 with 12 RBIs in the Padres series.

"Missing Lance in the lineup is big," Lee said, "Everybody has to do their part in order for us to win. I'm not trying to do too much - just take the same approach I always take."

Then Lee smiles.

"It doesn't always work."

So far it has.

joseph.duarte@chron.com


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: May 13, 2009

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