Altuve snaps historic postseason hitless streak in G3

October 23rd, 2022

NEW YORK -- As the Astros have been saying all along, it was only a matter of time for Jose Altuve.

Houston’s All-Star second baseman may have set a Major League record for the longest hitless streak to start a postseason, but it came to an end on Saturday evening at Yankee Stadium when Altuve sliced a double into the right-field corner off Yankees starter -- and former teammate -- Gerrit Cole in the fifth inning of the Astros’ 5-0 win in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series.

The opposite-field knock was the 39th extra-base hit of Altuve’s postseason career, breaking a tie with Albert Pujols for the fifth most all-time and trailing only Derek Jeter (57), Bernie Williams (51), Manny Ramirez (48) and David Ortiz (41).

And if you ask Altuve, it is just the start.

“It feels good," Altuve said after his 1-for-5 display. "I think I can refresh my mind and start from zero now -- I’ve done some good things for my team now, and I’m excited. Showing up every day at 100%, doing everything I can -- I think now things are going to come and I’m going to be able to get on base more.”

At 0-for-25, Altuve’s skid was the second-longest hitless streak in a single postseason, trailing only Robinson Canó’s 0-for-29 stretch for the Yankees in 2012. Coming in the Astros’ sixth game played this October, Altuve’s breakthrough hit might not have factored into the final score, but that was no matter, as Houston generated enough offense to take a commanding 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

Center fielder Chas McCormick played a big role in that effort, launching a two-run homer in the second inning. When he saw Altuve finally secure the knock the Astros had been waiting for, he joked that they should have saved the ball as a memento, as is tradition for milestone hits.

After Altuve caught wind of his teammate’s remark, he quipped: “He’s kind of funny sometimes.”

That’s indicative of the type of clubhouse the Astros have built, where a career-high drought can be laughed off with the knowledge that better days are coming. Even without much production from Altuve in the leadoff spot, Houston has yet to lose a game this postseason and is now only one win away from its fourth trip to the World Series in the past six seasons.

It’s obviously been hard, personally, because you want to get out there and play good for your team. But it’s been a lot easier because we’ve been winning,” Altuve said. “You want to get a hit, but if you don’t and you win, the job is done. And that’s what I play for: to win. But yeah, I’ve been working really hard, and now that I got a hit today, I feel like I can do better and better.”

In a telling sign of how this series has gone, that one hit from Altuve matched the output of the entire Yankees’ lineup until they were down to their final out of the contest. He helped keep New York off the board earlier in that ninth inning, too, coming up with a diving catch on a ball that looked destined for the hole between first and second base.

The defensive gem retired Giancarlo Stanton, who had that sole Yankees hit up to that point.

“My God, look at Altuve,” said ace Justin Verlander. “He hasn’t done what he wants to at the plate, but that play in the ninth tonight shows he never takes off a play and it’s all about the team effort. That’s what our expectations are, and it starts with leading by example.

“The way this postseason’s gone at the plate so far, he wants to pick it up, and we all believe he will. Ninth inning, up by five, it’s easy to fall asleep out there at second base, but he makes one of the best defensive plays of the postseason so far and it’s going to get overlooked, but I don’t think it should.”

For Altuve, who has been a thorn in the Yankees’ side for half a decade now, it was perhaps fitting that they were the team against whom his luck turned. After knocking them out of the postseason in 2017 and '19, the Astros are looking to do it once more, alongside their star’s return to form.

“We all knew it was going to come at some point,” said designated hitter Trey Mancini. “He’s arguably been the best hitter in baseball for a while, with such a special talent. The least of everybody’s concerns around here is Jose.”