Jose Altuve first put on an Astros uniform as a 17-year-old playing in the Venezuelan Summer League ten years ago. He’d recently persuaded Astros personnel to tender him a professional contract despite concerns over his diminutive frame. The second baseman stands just 5’6”, about eight inches below the MLB average. The Astros handed him a check for $15,000—a drop in the ocean of their budget for international prospects—and silently hoped for a growth spurt. Altuve, perhaps playing with a chip on his shoulder, batted .343 in 64 games that summer.
If you weren’t watching, you’d be forgiven for thinking that rumors of last night’s ballgame are nothing more than tall tales. 25 runs scored in a game started by Clayton Kershaw and Dallas Keuchel? Seven more World Series home runs to break the all time record? Blown saves by a pair of the best relievers in the game? It strains credulity.
Whatever you were expecting from Game 2, you weren’t expecting this. After one of the most dramatic postseason games in recent memory, the Astros are heading home with a coveted road win. With the series tied 1-1, Houston carries some pleasant momentum into their upcoming three-game home stand. It took no shortage of small miracles to get them there.
For the first ever time, the American League pennant has landed in Houston. Last night, the hometown Astros capped off a remarkable Championship Series against the New York Yankees, winning 4-0 in front of over 43,000 adoring fans. Now they’re headed to Los Angeles for their second Word Series appearance in franchise history, and first since 2005.
The Astros did what they were supposed to do. Now, the Yankees try to fight back.
Starting tonight, Houston and New York do battle in the Bronx, with a trip to the World Series on the line. Staked to a 2-0 series lead, Houston needs only win two of the next five games to advance—but don’t count the Yankees out just yet. They claimed the winner-take-all Wild Card game from Minnesota and rallied from a 0-2 deficit to dispatch the Cleveland Indians in the American League Division Series last week.
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.
The Houston Astros wrapped up their dominant 2017 season by claiming three wins in a four-game series against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park last weekend.
Their next opponent? Those same Red Sox, who travel to Houston to begin the best-of-five American League Division Series on Thursday.
Here’s the bad news: The Astros lost their series against the rival Texas Rangers, two games to one. That’s two series losses in a row, and leaves the ‘Stros with just three wins in their last ten games.
Now for the good news: Staff leader Dallas Keuchel finally flashed his Cy Young form on Sunday afternoon, leading Houston to its only win of the series on the back of 6 2/3 dominant innings. Keuchel allowed one earned run on six base hits, walking three and striking out seven. He earned the victory, moving to 10-2 on the 2017 season.
It was a long time coming. Keuchel hadn’t tallied a W since way back on June 2 – also against the Rangers, in Arlington. He hit the disabled list with neck discomfort a few days after than, and missed most of the next two months slowly mending the nagging injury. Sunday marked his fourth time starting since rejoining the Houston roster, and his first time pitching to his own lofty standards. A healthy and effective Keuchel would go a long way towards stabilizing a Houston rotation that’s missing electric youngster Lance McCullers Jr.
Jose Altuve – who’s batting a stunning .362, and is emerging as a frontrunner for the American League Most Valuable Player award – led the charge on offense with a pair of base hits, including his 18th home run of the season. A seventh-inning RBI single from Carlos Beltrán gave the Astros a 2-1 lead before Keuchel turned the game over to the bullpen.
Houston closer Ken Giles recorded six outs for his 23rd save of the season, notching two strikeouts along the way. Giles has been a bright spot for a beleaguered Houston bullpen, working to a 2.86 ERA in an array of high-leverage situations.
Clippard Brought In To Shore Up ‘Pen
The Astros may have missed out on their top targets ahead of the non-waiver trade deadline, but GM Jeff Luhnow and company are still keen to improve their club. Word broke late on Sunday that Houston had acquired White Sox reliever Tyler Clippard to do exactly that. Clippard has been a solid arm for the Sox this year, pitching to a 1.80 ERA in 11 games since the All-Star break, including two recent scoreless innings against the ‘Stros in Chicago.
Harris On The Way
Continuing the theme, Houston reliever Will Harris threw off a mound on Sunday – a critical step in his rehabilitation from an inflamed shoulder. Harris has been dearly missed – he ran a 2.86 ERA this year before his injury and can help reinvigorate a bullpen that’s looked overworked and overmatched since the break.
‘Stros Set To Rattle Snakes
The Astros are traveling to Arizona to take on an unfamiliar opponent – the Arizona Diamondbacks of the NL West. The D-Backs are enjoying a stellar year. At 65-52, they share the third-best record in the National League. Even so, they sit a stunning 18 games out of first place, behind the juggernaut Los Angeles Dodgers. Collin McHugh draws tonight’s start for the ‘Stros. He’ll face a tough opponent: Arizona ace Zack Greinke. Greinke will sling his first pitch at 8:40 Central.