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Francona reminded of father when watching Altuve

HOUSTON -- Indians manager Terry Francona is getting an up-close look this week at Houston second baseman Jose Altuve, who had multiple hits in the first three games of the series in his quest to become the first member of the Astros to lead a league in batting average.

Francona knows something about batting races. In 1959 his father, Tito, had the highest batting average in the American League (.363) playing for the Indians, but he fell 34 at-bats short of qualifying for the crown.

Altuve won't have that problem. Altuve, who entered Thursday with a .344 average, 11 points ahead of Detroit's Victor Martinez, has more than enough at-bats to qualify. He also has a fan in Francona.

"He's a hard guy to pitch to," said Francona, who's especially familiar with Altuve since Cleveland bench coach Brad Mills used to manage the Astros. "You can tell he's so in tune to the game. He's always talking, moving. He looks like he's a very special player.

"I don't really know the kid, but I feel like I probably know him a little better, because Millsie talks about him a lot. In a good way. He's good for the game. [It's] not very good when you're playing against him."

Tito Francona had a special season 55 years ago, but Detroit's Harvey Kuenn won the batting title with a .353 average.

"My dad's not the type to blow his own horn much, but [it was a] pretty good year," said Francona. "I hear stories, and I don't know if it's true, but you hear that maybe that was part of the reason they changed, they started adding plate appearances, walks.

"I was a big enough fan of baseball growing up, and a huge fan of my dad's, that I always asked him about it. He was a good hitter. We had a similar swing, [but] he was much stronger. The ball went a little farther when he hit it than when I hit it."

Richard Dean is a contributor to
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