'This is his town': 2 HRs, milestone for Altuve

July 21st, 2021

HOUSTON -- The legend of Jose Altuve is growing each time he takes the field and each time he comes to bat. He’s made a career of proving people wrong and rising to the challenge in the biggest moments and on the biggest stages. So what he did Tuesday shouldn’t be a surprise. 

On a night the Astros honored him on the 10th anniversary of his Major League debut, Altuve electrified the crowd at Minute Maid Park by crushing homers in each of his first two at-bats and making a spectacular leaping catch on a line drive to lead the Astros to a 9-3 win over the Indians. Houston improved to 6-0 against Cleveland this year.

“Tonight’s game was another dream come true,” Altuve said. “Ten years in the big leagues and we won the game. Everything today was pretty good and I’m really happy.”

Considered as one of the three greatest offensive players in club history, along with Hall of Famers Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell, the Astros honored Altuve and his career with a pregame video. Houston’s love affair with the 5-foot-6 second baseman started on July 20, 2011, and is still going strong a decade later.

“I thought it was pretty awesome,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “Evidently, he was energized by the fact that this was his 10th year. That was a great video tribute to begin the game, and he hits a home run in his first at-bat and the second at-bat. That was truly a way to celebrate your 10th year in the big leagues. I think the fans appreciate him and he appreciates the fans. This is his town.”

Altuve began the night with his seventh leadoff homer of the season, traveling an estimated 398 feet over the wall in left field, according to Statcast. He hit a towering fly ball in the third that clanked off the left-field foul pole -- traveling an estimated 357 feet -- that made the score 2-0. Both homers came off Indians starter Triston McKenzie.

“Yeah, I would have been happy just clapping for him before the game, acknowledging his 10 years,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “He didn’t need to do that. He’s a pretty incredible player. I don’t care how tall he is or how tall he isn’t. He’s a really good player, and he’s been a good player for a long time. I don’t like seeing him beat us like that, but he’s good for the game.” 

With a chance for his first three-homer game since Game 1 of the 2017 American League Division Series against the Red Sox, Altuve lined out to center in the fourth, walked in the fifth and lined out to left field in the seventh. That didn’t diminish the magnitude of the night. 

“I think the last three or four days, there’s been a lot of emotions going through my body,” he said. “Like I said, it’s not easy to get 10 years. One thing is dreaming about playing 10 years in the big leagues, and it’s another thing to actually make it happen. Yeah, this is very special to me and it means a lot, especially this team and the teammates and the fans.”

Baker, who’s played alongside, against and managed some of the greatest players in the game over the last 50 years, heaped some high praise on Altuve. 

“I don’t think he gets enough credit for his ability to reach all pitches,” he said. “That’s the thing. He can hit a ball over his head, he can hit a ball six inches off the ground. This guy has tremendous bat coverage. And he finds the barrel of the bat as well as anybody I’ve ever seen. If you ask the opposition, I’m sure they’ll give him plenty of credit. Boy, he’s a heck of a player, a tremendous player. One of the best players I’ve been around, one of the best players I've seen.”

Altuve began his career with a seven-game hitting streak and has amassed 1,703 career hits since his Major League debut, which is 178 hits more than anyone else in baseball in that span (Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman has 1,525). That includes 155 career homers, with 22 of those coming this year. He’s nine homers shy of tying his career high of 31 in 2019. 

“You have to watch him every day to really appreciate him,” Baker said. “Just the things he does. He’s a quality person, a great teammate and everybody respects him. He’s a quiet leader on this team. He’s a guy that, boy, his stats don’t really speak the total justice for what he means to this team and what he means to this town.”