NEW YORK -- The boisterous crowd at Yankee Stadium welcomed Astros second baseman José Altuve with a chorus of boos when he was announced in pregame introductions before Game 3 of the American League Championship Series on Tuesday.
The jeers got even louder when he stepped to the plate in the first inning.
Then the crowd went quiet. Really quiet.
“I think everybody knows I like swinging the bat. I don't like wasting too much time on home plate,” Altuve said. “But no, I wasn't looking for a slider, I was just looking for something that I could drive. And thank God, I hit the ball out, because for us it's real important to score before they do, because that gave us confidence.”
The homer set the stage for a big afternoon for the Astros. They are now 9-1 in the playoffs when Altuve homers. As Altuve goes, so do the Astros.
“Part of the heart and soul of what we do is José,” Astros manager AJ Hinch said. “He's been here the longest of anybody on this team. He's an energy provider. He's a spark anytime he's on the field. I've said this before, but everything right about the Houston Astros is José Altuve.”
The homer was Altuve’s first of the ALCS and his fourth of the 2019 postseason. The long ball was also his 12th career home run in 40 postseason games, tying teammate George Springer for the franchise record and Jayson Werth on the all-time list for players in their first 40 playoff games. Only four players had more home runs in their first 40 postseason games: Nelson Cruz, Carlos Beltrán, Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle.
Altuve’s home run -- which traveled a projected 420 feet and was clocked at 106.6 mph, according to Statcast -- makes his postseason career at-bat/home run rate 13.58, which ranks tied for fourth all time with Springer (minimum 150 at-bats) and behind Cruz, Mantle and Beltrán.
“We know in this case, the games are more important and more intense,” Altuve said of performing in the postseason. “People, the fans, they get into the game maybe more. … I'm not trying to do anything different. I’m just trying to be the player I am, put the ball in play and get on base and steal some bases and in the end, score some runs to help my team.”
Altuve was not done.
In the seventh, Springer walked to lead off the inning and Altuve followed with a single to the right side of the infield with Springer moving on a straight steal. Springer advanced to third on the play. Altuve eventually made it to third base on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Michael Brantley and motored home on a wild pitch by New York reliever Zack Britton to extend Houston’s lead to three runs. Brantley scored on a sacrifice fly by Yuli Gurriel to cap the two-run inning for a 4-0 lead.
“There's something about the top of that order -- including George and Josey and [Michael Brantley] -- swinging the bat a little better this last game,” Hinch said. “When they get going, our offense really does start to take off. Today specifically, you come into this stadium, you have to try to take the lead. And the homer kind of kick-started everything.”