Altuve suddenly took off for third and seemed to cruise in for a standup triple, only for an impeccable relay to Boston third baseman Travis Shaw to barely nab him sans slide. Replays showed a bang-bang play at the bag, and A.J. Hinch's manager's challenge was unsuccessful as the call stood.
"Not an odd play for us," Boston manager John Farrell said. "Travis did a good job of selling the play where he didn't anticipate the throw until the last moment. The replay shows Jose was slowing down, maybe a little too prematurely, so we caught a break and made a heck of a relay throw."
Altuve didn't appear to get any help from Astros third-base coach Gary Pettis, who was holding his hands up in a motion to stay upright rather than slide as Altuve reached the base.
It was a miscalculation, aided by the second baseman's own deceleration, which he lamented.
"I should run hard, and I didn't," Altuve said. "You learn from those kind of plays, and it won't happen again."
Hinch thought the call would go Houston's way despite the lackadaisical effort reaching the base.
"It looked to me like he was going to be safe," Hinch said. "That notwithstanding, the ball's got to stop you, and the game didn't tell him to stop. I think he took for granted a bit the moment he thought he could cruise into third. He knows it, he apologized for it and he feels terrible about it. Luckily, we tacked on runs the next inning."
It still took a near-perfect confluence of events -- some of them rather clumsy -- to create the memorable play.
First, Bradley and Betts both had to dive, avoiding a collision but each missing the ball. Even then, Altuve simply trotted to first base. Any faster break out of the batter's box, and a hustling Betts would likely have no chance to start the 9-5-4 putout.
"It's tough to communicate on that because it wasn't hit high enough," Betts said. "Luckily, [Bradley] dove behind me and the ball got by us, but thought we made a good play after it."
But the final piece of the puzzle was Shaw. The third baseman had to pull off an acting job, one he's never tried before on the field.
Shaw froze up, selling Altuve and keeping him from sliding. It worked. Shaw was almost dead still until the ball reached his glove and he swiped the back of Altuve's leg.
"If he knows that throw's coming, that's an easy triple," Shaw said. "Seen other people do it, but [I've] never done that personally. It can work. It usually doesn't at third because the third-base coach is right behind him, but I don't know what the third-base coach was doing.
" ... As soon as [Altuve] broke stride, I knew he was out."
Chris Abshire is a contributor to MLB.com based in Houston.