Altuve runs away with second AL batting crown

October 2nd, 2016

ANAHEIM -- There was no drama like there was two years ago, when Astros second baseman went into the final day of the regular season with a slim lead over Detroit's in the race for the American League batting crown. Altuve was originally out of the lineup, but he wound up playing and getting a pair of hits to secure his first title.

Altuve entered Sunday's game against the Angels with an 18-point lead over Boston's and and went 1-for-4 as a designated hitter in the Astros' 8-1 loss at Angel Stadium. His broken-bat single in the ninth inning meant he finished the season as the Rod Carew AL Batting Champion with a .338 average, and he led the Majors with 216 hits. Pedroia and Betts both went 0-for-4 to finish at .318.

"I mean, as a player, you always want to get a hit and get on base," Altuve said. "I'm the kind of player that, you guys know, I want to win as many games as possible, including this one. I wanted to get a guy on and have the guys behind me get a couple of hits. It was a great season. Like I said yesterday, we have a really good team, and we're going to come back stronger next year."

Altuve is responsible for three of the four highest single-season hit totals in Astros history -- 225 in 2014, 216 this year and 200 in '15. Only Craig Biggio, who collected 210 hits in 1998, had reached 200 hits in a season for the Astros before Altuve's arrival.

"Every time you do something like that, that means you're doing it in a good way," Altuve said. "It means you're doing something good for the team. It's always good to win a batting title and lead the league in hits. It's great, and like I said, my teammates encourage me to play hard every day."

Altuve's teammates gave him a toast following Saturday's game because everyone was in a hurry to go their separates ways on Sunday. Altuve signed a few mementos for teammates and figures to be in the AL Most Valuable Player race, though his .269 batting average in September may have cost him a chance to win. He batted at least .333 in every other month except April, when he hit .305.

"It's nice for him to end on a good note," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "Obviously, the bat breaking is probably not his favorite. He loves his bats, but what a sensational season for him, gutting it out and wanting to play and wanting to get as many hits as he can. It's really important he plays well. He knows when he plays well, we play well, and he was our best player this year."