For first time ever, Astros sweep Yankees

Altuve homers twice, totals 4 in series; club 6-0 on homestand

April 11th, 2019

HOUSTON -- enjoyed his 100th career home run so much that he wasted no time getting his 101st and 102nd.

One night after a career milestone, he stepped to home plate in the bottom of the first inning on Wednesday and promptly slammed a 95-mph fastball from Yankees lefty James Paxton onto, and what proved to be over, the left-field wall at Minute Maid Park.

He then led off the bottom of the fifth by hitting another Paxton fastball over the left-field wall. Those two home runs were part of a 16-hit attack that included a homer, double and single by as the Astros held off the Yankees for an 8-6 victory and their first sweep of the Yankees in franchise history.

Altuve’s four home runs in the series are tied for the most by an Astros player in a three-game regular-season series, according to Statcast research. He’s the 11th Astros player to do it, the last being Lance Berkman in a July 2010 series against the Pirates.

“I’m as surprised as you are,” Altuve said. “I’m not used to hitting this many homers in two or three games, but I’ll take it. Anything you can do to help this team is great.”

With pitching six stingy innings, the Astros had some nervous moments at the end before putting the finishing touches on a 6-0 homestand. That’s their first perfect homestand of at least two series since sweeping six from the Cardinals and Rockies at the end of the 2004 season to clinch a National League Wild Card berth.

“Historic?” Astros manager AJ Hinch said with a shrug. “I don’t really care. Historic will be at the end of the season if we can pull off what we want.”

The Astros rolled into the eighth inning with a 7-2 lead, but the Yankees scored four runs off the Houston bullpen to make it 7-6. With closer Roberto Osuna having pitched three straight days, Hinch called on right-hander for the first four-out save of his career.

“That’s a new experience for me,” Pressly said. “You get up really high, and all of a sudden you have to sit back and then get back up again. I was glad to prove to myself I could do it.”

He struck out pinch-hitter Gary Sanchez with the potential tying run on third in the top of the eighth, and the Astros scored an insurance run in the bottom of the inning.

This isn’t how the season began for the Astros, who’d gone 2-5 on an opening road trip to St. Petersburg and Texas. Now having risen to three games above .500 at 8-5, they’ll try the road again, departing for a 10-day, eight-game trip to Seattle, Oakland and Texas that begins Friday in the Pacific Northwest against a Mariners team that has been atop the American League West every day of the young season.

As for Altuve, beginning with a Monday home run against the Yankees, he has hit one in three straight games for the first time in his career. And his second one Wednesday gave him his fourth regular-season multi-home run of his nine-year career.

“He’s in a good place, mentally, physically, getting good pitches to hit,” Hinch said. “That’s sort of what everybody will say, but he’s laying off some borderline pitches to get into some counts. He’s hunted the right pitch at the right time. He’s just pretty damn good.

“He works hard, and he takes it personal when he doesn’t carry this team. I’ve said often times he’s like the perfect player. He’s very locked in on doing the right thing. That’s why he’s an MVP.”

His first homer on Wednesday had a bit of drama to it. Also some delayed gratification. That one tied the game at 1 after Yankees leadoff man Brett Gardner hit one off McHugh in the top of the first.

Umpires initially ruled the hit a double. As Altuve stood at second base chatting with Yankees shortstop Gleyber Torres, a crew chief review that took 3 minutes, 15 seconds changed the call to a home run.

Altuve trotted around the bases as fireworks went off. Statcast clocked the home run at 358 feet and 108.9 mph off the bat. His second one was a no-doubter, measured by Statcast at 108 mph and 428 feet. He said his teammates were his inspiration.

"Just watching these guys and how good they are, that makes you not to take anything for granted,” he said. “Go out there and fight every single at-bat. I normally hit behind Georgey [Springer], and he fights every single at-bat. That’s a player you want to follow and look up to.”

Altuve, a three-time American League batting champ and six-time All-Star, won’t be remembered for his power. But he hit 24 in back-to-back seasons in 2016 and '17. He was the AL Most Valuable Player in '17 after hitting .346 with 39 doubles.

“He’s a game-changer,” Correa said. “He’s really dangerous. It’s crazy. I know he’s got pop, but when he gets hot, nobody can stop him.”