For starters, members of the Baseball Writers Association of America who vote for the American League Most Valuable Player, if you like dingers, Jose Altuve can give you some dingers. How about three of them in one game?
The Astros star second baseman continued to make his case for MVP with a historic three-home run game, and the Houston Astros showed a national audience (many of whom were likely watching them play for the first time) glimpses of what has led them to a superb 101-61 regular season record, as they topped the Boston Red Sox 8-2 on Thursday in Game 1 of their AL Division Series at Minute Maid Park.
“It feels really good to hit three homers, of course, but after the game when you see the scoreboard and say, okay, Astros won that game, it’s like, wow, you know, we did it,” Altuve said. “And every single game is going to be with a lot of intensity, a lot of energy, we know what we’re doing out there, it’s a playoff game, nobody’s going to take anything for granted. But I love the way that the team went out there and played today.”
Those who may have never seen the Astros this season had probably at least heard that they had the No. 1 offense in baseball, and they lived up to that billing from the get-go with a pair of solo home runs by third baseman Alex Bregman and Altuve giving the team a 2-0 lead in the first inning.
But, it’s not just the pop from the big names at the top of the lineup that has made the Astros’ offense special this season, it’s wealth of quality hitters in the batting order from top to bottom. Batting eighth, super utility player Marwin Gonzalez broke a 2-2 tie with a two-out, two-run double shot to the wall in right-center field.
And the lineup continued its trademark relentless hitting throughout the game. Altuve’s second home run of the game pushed the lead to 5-2 in the fifth inning, and then a two-run bloop single by catcher Brian McCann (batting last in the order) broke the game open in the sixth inning, before Altuve’s third home run put the proverbial cherry on top of the win in the seventh inning.
Those veteran, unsung bats showed how they helped elevate the Astros’ offense to elite status this year. Even when stars like outfielder George Springer and shortstop Carlos Correa (both 0-for-4) have off-games, guys like McCann and Gonzalez with their clutch hits, or like designated hitter Evan Gattis (2-for-3, two doubles, one walk) and outfielder Josh Reddick (2-for-3, one walk) are there to step up.
As the old saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a great first impression. For those viewers tuning into this team for the first time, the Astros hit that first impression out of the park.
• Altuve’s three-home run postseason game was the 10th ever in baseball history and the first since Pablo Sandoval’s in 2012.
• Altuve hit three home runs in a game for the first time in his career.