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Altuve is 1st in MLB in '19 to achieve this HR feat

Astros extend win streak to 8 with win over Mariners
@DKramer_
April 14, 2019

SEATTLE -- Even by his standards, which includes an American League MVP Award and a World Series championship, José Altuve is having a career week. Altuve became the first player in MLB this season to homer in five straight games in the Astros' 3-1 win over the Mariners on Saturday,

SEATTLE -- Even by his standards, which includes an American League MVP Award and a World Series championship, José Altuve is having a career week.

Altuve became the first player in MLB this season to homer in five straight games in the Astros' 3-1 win over the Mariners on Saturday, their eighth straight victory, at T-Mobile Park. He extended his personal-best homer streak by lifting a full-count sinker left up in the zone by Felix Hernandez for a 411-foot blast in the fifth.

Even Altuve is surprised by the power barrage he’s unleashing from his 5-foot-6 frame, insisting that he’s not “trying” to slug, but rather, feasting on pitches in an optimum contact point, typically up in the zone.

“I’m not the power hitter that we’re all seeing right now, but I’ll take it,” Altuve said. “If I can keep hitting homers for my team, I’ll be happy.”

Most consecutive games with a home run | Healthy Altuve reminding everyone he's an MVP

Altuve is the first Astros player to go deep in five straight games since Morgan Ensberg set a franchise record by homering in six straight from April 15-21, 2006. Saturday’s showing followed Altuve’s go-ahead grand slam in Friday's win, which was the Astros' seventh straight victory. Altuve has six homers during his streak and seven this season.

Altuve has a .717 slugging percentage through 15 games, and he has more than half of his homer total from last season (13), when he was placed on the injured list for the first time in his career with a knee issue that required offseason surgery. Altuve’s health is paramount to the Astros’ offense as they attempt to defend their back-to-back American League West titles.

“He can carry this ballclub. He was the MVP for a reason,” said Houston ace Justin Verlander, who aided Altuve and the offense with his best start of 2019. “To see him go out there and be healthy, nobody wants to dwell on negatives, but what he was going through behind the scenes last year that nobody was really aware of, it really speaks volumes to his character and the person that he is. But to see him healthy again and performing how we know he can perform, it's a big boost.”

Verlander played a critical role in the win, striking out a season-high 11 of the 20 batters he faced, including eight of his first 10, while showing complete command of the strike zone against a Mariners lineup that has proven to be one of the most disciplined through two-plus weeks of the season.

An elevated pitch count early -- 39 through two innings, aided by four three-ball counts -- limited Verlander to six innings, but he left with conviction on the improvements he showed on his slider and the changeup that continues to appear in his repertoire, primarily as a setup pitch.

“It just gives me another weapon to use to guys that aren't necessarily good on changeups or in situations where I can't find a way to get the guy out,” Verlander said. “It's more just about not worrying about pitch count, keeping guys off the bases. But if we extend the lead three or four or five runs, I think you can start to see those changeups early in counts, just kind of like, 'Here it is. Hit it,' and hopefully get some quick outs. I'm not afraid to give up a base hit on it. Because I can go attack the next guy and not worry about it.”

Verlander registered a strikeout on each of the four pitches he threw (four-seam fastball, curveball, slider and changeup), and his lone run allowed came via a solo homer from Mitch Haniger with one out in the fourth, the first hit he gave up.

Verlander recorded four strikeouts with his four-seam fastball (red), five with his slider (yellow), one with his curveball (blue) and one with his changeup (green).

Haniger's homer also marked the first hit against Verlander's changeup this year. The right-hander didn't throw it again after that.

"I was just reacting,” Haniger said. “The last two starts we saw, he threw a lot of sliders. We knew he’d come out throwing a lot of fastballs. Generally, mostly fastball, curveball, slider. But he just tried to go with the changeup there.”

Verlander’s 30 strikeouts trail only Tampa Bay's Blake Snell (36), who Verlander finished second to last year in the AL Cy Young Award voting.

Robinson Chirinos hit a 384-foot homer to left off Hernandez in the third, and Michael Brantley had an RBI single later that inning.

Daniel Kramer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Seattle. Follow him on Twitter at @DKramer_.