Altuve ignites rally against Kluber with bat, legs
HOUSTON -- Leave it to Jose Altuve to get the Astros going in their first game of the season.
Altuve, who led the Major Leagues last year in batting average and hits, stroked a two-out bloop single to center field with two outs in the sixth inning off Indians ace Corey Kluber, stole second and scored on a single by George Springer to give the Astros the only run they'd need in a 2-0 win over the Indians at Minute Maid Park on Monday night.
Kluber, the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner, was working on a no-hitter and had just struck out a pair of batters before Altuve ignited the Astros with his softly hit single.
"I just wanted to make contact with the ball," Altuve said. "Kluber was throwing everything for strikes and had good command. He had a really tough 95-mph sinker, with a 90-mph cutter, and that's got to be tough. I wanted to put the ball in play. As soon as I got on first base, I knew Springer was hitting behind me, and if I got to second base, he can drive me in. That's what happened, and we took the lead, and that's pretty important in the inning."
Altuve began the game by grounding out and striking out against Kluber, who retired 17 of the first 18 batters he faced before Altuve came back up in the sixth. When Altuve reached first base, he stole second on the next pitch to put himself in scoring position.
"We want to be aggressive, especially with him," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "Everybody knows he's going to go, including them. [Indians catcher Yan] Gomes throws the ball very well, and it was just a good baseball play. ... It was good to get him in scoring position there."
Springer followed with a sharp single to left field, and Altuve raced home from second base.
"I think that's just standard Altuve," Springer said. "He finds a way, and he found a way to get to second base. It's our job to drive him in."
Hinch was asked if he had a feeling Altuve was going to come through and break up Kluber's no-hit bid when Altuve came to the plate in the sixth inning.
"I think he's going to get a hit every time," he said. "I'm as surprised as anyone when he doesn't get a hit. I assume the best with him."