If Game One of the American League Division Series was anything to go by, Jose Altuve is feeling good this October. Good luck, opposing pitchers.
The frontrunner for the American League MVP Award turned in a performance worthy of that designation on Thursday, smacking three solo home runs en route to an 8-2 Astros victory over Boston. In so doing, he became just the ninth player in baseball history to homer three times in a postseason contest, joining names like Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson, and George Brett.
No shot was more important than the first, a 101-mph shot that traveled a projected 389 feet. Altuve was just the third Astros batter to face Red Sox ace Chris Sale, and his blast gave the Astros a 2-0 lead after third-baseman Alex Bregman’s own first-inning home run.
Altuve struck against Sale once more in the bottom of the fifth inning to send the Astros up 5-2. This one was a laser beam. With an exit velocity of 109 mph, it was among the hardest hit home runs of the season.
After the Astros chased Sale, who gave up an uncharacteristic seven runs in five-plus innings, Altuve went to work on the Red Sox bullpen. He led off the bottom of the seventh inning with a 104-mph, 402 foot blast that soared a majestic 99 feet into the air. That bomb gave the Astros their eighth and final run of the game.
It’s worth noting that even Altuve’s lone out was well-struck. In bottom of the third, he grounded into an inning-ending double play, but the ball had an exit velocity of 102-mph—he just happened to hit it right at Boston shortstop Xander Bogaerts.
Four plate appearances, four exit velocities over 100 mph—it’s safe to say that the Astros’ biggest star is seeing the ball well.
Overshadowed by Altuve’s power show was another solid postseason appearance by Justin Verlander. The new Houston ace worked six innings on 99 pitches, allowing two runs on six hits and striking out three. It was more of the usual for Verlander, who lowered his career postseason ERA to 3.36 in the process.
Keuchel Eyes Commanding Lead
Game Two kicks off at 1:00 Central this afternoon. 2015 Cy Young Award-winner Dallas Keuchel takes the mound for Houston. Keuchel pitched 14-5 record and 2.90 ERA over 23 starts in an injury-shortened season. He was sharp in September, compiling a 2.87 ERA across five starts.
Keuchel is opposed by fellow left-hander Drew Pomeranz of the Red Sox, who’s coming off quite a nice season himself. Pomeranz went 17-6 for the Sox, with a 3.32 ERA.
The Astros’ lefty-loving bats (Altuve, Carlos Correa, and Bregman, in particular) will look to support Keuchel with plenty of offense and give the ‘Stros a commanding 2-0 lead before the series transfers to Boston on Sunday.