'A huge accomplishment': Altuve becomes fastest Astro to 2,000 hits

August 20th, 2023

HOUSTON -- The sting of a blowout loss to the Mariners still fresh on their minds, the Astros were able to set aside their frustration for a few minutes Saturday night and give a proper champagne toast to a franchise legend.

Astros second baseman stood in front of his teammates and spoke some words in the clubhouse at Minute Maid Park -- which, if you know anything about Altuve, isn’t something he enjoys. He likes to let his bat do his talking, and a glance at the back of his baseball card shows the makings of a Hall of Fame career.

An eight-time All-Star, a six-time Silver Slugger winner, the 2017 American League Most Valuable Player and a two-time World Series champion, Altuve became the third player in franchise history to reach 2,000 career hits with a fifth-inning single in the 10-3 loss.

“I know we lost today and not in a good way, but I’m really happy and thankful with my teammates, my family and God,” said Altuve, who went 3-for-5. “Two-thousand is a huge accomplishment.”

Altuve joined Hall of Famers Jeff Bagwell (2,314 hits) and Craig Biggio (3,060) as the only Astros to reach 2,000, and no one did it as fast as the 5-foot-6 Venezuelan. Altuve needed 1,631 games to reach the milestone and became the seventh active player -- and first who made his debut in 2011 or later -- to reach 2,000.

“As it was getting close, some guys on the team and family members started talking about 2,000, and you feel a little anxious and nervous about going to home plate and doing it,” Altuve said.

The crowd gave Altuve a standing ovation as he came off the field, and he tipped his helmet moments later and came out of the dugout for a curtain call. He’s the 10th Venezuelan-born player to reach 2,000 hits.

“It means a lot,” Altuve said. “To have my name next to a few other guys from Venezuela is obviously really good. Miguel Cabrera just hit 3,000 a year ago. That means a lot to me.”

The Mariners tagged struggling starter Framber Valdez for six runs and 10 hits in five innings to improve to 7-2 this season against Houston, winning the season series and securing the tiebreaker. The Astros remained 2 1/2 games behind the first-place Rangers in the AL West, with the Mariners now only 1 1/2 games behind Houston.

“We just had a glass of champagne and kind of broke the ice a little bit after a tough loss,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “That's quite an accomplishment. … Hopefully, he can stay healthy and be around for the next 1,000.”

Not so fast, Altuve said when asked about going for 3,000.

“It's a long way,” the 33-year-old said. “Let’s go one hit at a time.”

Altuve entered Saturday needing two hits for 2,000, and a first-inning single put him on the cusp. He struck out in the third inning, but with a crowd of 38,280 on its feet in the fifth, he laced a 2-2 pitch from Mariners right-hander Logan Gilbert into the left-field corner. Altuve, just like Biggio did when he reached 3,000 hits in 2007, tried to stretch the hit to a double and was thrown out at second base.

“That was pretty cool, pretty special,” Biggio said. “I wish he would have been safe, but it’s an incredible accomplishment. Two-thousand hits has only been done three times now [by an Astro], and I’m really happy for him -- the path that he’s on, the journey that he’s had.”

That journey began in Venezuela, where Altuve was famously turned away from a tryout camp because he was deemed too small. He returned the next day and impressed Astros scouts with his bat-to-ball skills at 16 years old. He signed for $15,000 in 2007 and rose quickly through the system, making his debut in 2011.

In addition to having the third-most hits in franchise history, Altuve is now third on the club’s charts in total bases (3,056), runs scored (1,030) and doubles (392), fourth in extra-base hits (623) and fifth in homers (201). Bagwell, Biggio and Altuve are clearly the three greatest players in franchise history.

“He goes out there and plays every day,” Biggio said. “He takes his 600 at-bats, and he’s an amazing player. What’s he got, two or three batting titles? [He has three.] The awards that he has at home are pretty incredible. But he’s a better person than he is a player, and I can’t tell you how happy I am for him.”

Altuve hadn’t yet had a chance to go through his phone to check his congratulatory messages, and maybe he wasn’t in a mood after a tough loss. Plus, another game awaits Sunday. The countdown to 3,000 is underway.

“I got a few messages,” he said. “I’ll answer tomorrow after the game. We play at 12, so…”