NEW YORK (AP) — Jose Altuve finally got that first one.
The Houston Astros’ star second baseman doubled Saturday for his only hit in 28 postseason at-bats this year, ending the longest slump of his stellar career at 0 for 25.
Altuve reached across the plate and slapped an 0-1 slider from New York Yankees ace Gerrit Cole inside the right-field line during a 5-0 victory in Game 3 of the AL Championship Series.
“I think it’s been obviously hard personally because you want to get up there and play good for your team. But it’s been a lot easier, too, because we’ve been winning,” Altuve said.
The ball rolled toward the corner, and Altuve cruised into second base with one out in the fifth inning as smiling teammates raised their arms and banged the dugout railing.
It was his first hit since going 3 for 3 against Philadelphia in his final game of the regular season Oct. 4.
“We all knew it was going to come at some point. He’s arguably the best hitter in baseball for a while and he’s such a special talent,” Astros designated hitter Trey Mancini said. “So I think that’s the least of everybody’s concerns around here is Jose.”
Altuve finished 1 for 5 as Houston moved within one win of the World Series with a commanding 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven ALCS.
“It was a great sign. From talking to the great Tommy Davis, who is a close friend of mine and my hero, he would always tell me, `If you’re having trouble, go back to the opposite field and then march your way back to the pull side,'” Astros manager Dusty Baker said.
“So that was a great sign, for him to get a knock. And when you get a hit when you’re 0 for something, any knock is great.”
The three-time batting champion and 2017 AL MVP began the playoffs 0 for 25 against Seattle and New York — the longest hitless streak at the start of a postseason in major league history. He broke the mark set when Dal Maxvill of the St. Louis Cardinals went 0 for 22 versus Detroit in the 1968 World Series, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Previously, the worst drought of Altuve’s career was 0 for 19 from Aug. 31 to Sept. 5, 2018.
“You’re always happy for your teammate whenever they’ve been struggling a little bit or maybe pressing, things like that. I’ve certainly done that from time to time, too,” Mancini said. “So it was great to see him get a knock there.”
The 5-foot-6 Altuve batted .300 with 28 homers and 57 RBIs during the regular season. The eight-time All-Star has won five Silver Slugger awards and was the MVP of the 2019 ALCS against the Yankees, when he launched a series-clinching homer off Aroldis Chapman.
Altuve has 23 career postseason home runs, which ranks second in big league history behind Manny Ramirez (29). Despite the uncharacteristic struggles of their popular leadoff man, the Astros are 6-0 in these playoffs.
After his double, Altuve was stranded at third base. But he made a diving defensive play at second for the first out of the ninth inning.
“It doesn’t matter if you get a hit or not. You want to get a hit but if you don’t and you win, the job is done,” Altuve said. “And that’s what I play for — to win. But yeah, I’ve been working really hard. Now that I got it today, I feel like I can do better and better.”
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