HOUSTON -- José Altuve passed Chase Utley for the most home runs by a second baseman in playoff history, knocking the 11th of his postseason career with a solo shot off Emilio Pagán in the eighth inning of the Astros' 6-1 win over the Rays on Thursday night, which clinched the American League Division Series.
Altuve is now tied with teammate George Springer for the most homers in Astros postseason history.
The Astros were already cruising to their Game 5 win when Michael Brantley and Altuve led off the eighth with back-to-back homers that gave Houston an even more comfortable lead. The homers put a bow on a nearly flawless game for the Astros, who sailed to this win behind another dominant outing by co-ace Gerrit Cole, who fanned 10 over eight innings.
Altuve, who went 2-for-4, has reached base safely in 14 consecutive postseason games dating back to Game 7 of the 2017 World Series.
During Houston's raucous clubhouse party celebrating the clincher, Altuve received heaps of praise for not only his ability to come through in clutch situations in important games, but his penchant for doing it year after year -- a model of consistency in a game that can be so defined by failure.
“He beats you in every facet of the game,” Justin Verlander said. “He beats you with his legs, he beats you with his arm, he beats you with his contact. He can get the guy over when he needs to, and he hits the long ball.
“He’s got range at second base that’s unbelievable. He does everything extremely well, and when you put it all together, and add in that clutch gene he’s got, it makes José Altuve.”
Astros president and general manager Jeff Luhnow noted the underrated strength that might not be noticed at first glance, given Altuve's shorter stature.
“Pound for pound, he could be one of the strongest players in baseball,” Luhnow said. “You see him with his shirt off, he’s pretty ripped. He’s got a low center of gravity, but he can really get behind the ball and drive it a long way.”
Funny he should mention that. Altuve’s homer off Pagan traveled a projected 405 feet to left-center, per Statcast, and left his bat at 103.6 mph.
For Altuve, that’s pretty normal behavior.
“This guy has been one of the best hitters in baseball since 2012, when I got here,” Luhnow said.