Hous­ton star Al­tuve hopes to keep rolling

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - Baseball - By Kristie Rieken

HOUS­TON — Jose Al­tuve hit .346 to win the Amer­i­can League bat­ting ti­tle for the sec­ond year in a row be­fore bat­ting .533 in the AL Di­vi­sion Se­ries to help the Hous­ton Astros elim­i­nate the Bos­tonRed Sox.

As Hous­ton pre­pares to play host to the New York Yan­kees Fri­day night in Game 1 of its first league cham­pi­onship se­ries since 2005,Al­tuve’s team­mates and coaches say what’s bet­ter than his gaudy num­bers is his ap­proach: No mat­ter how great his stats are, he al­ways be­lieveshe can do bet­ter.

“He has four hits and he’s like: ‘Car­los, I never had a five-hit game be­fore, let me try to get the fifth hit,’ ” star short­stop Car­los Cor­rea said. “He’s al­ways striv­ing for more.”

Al­tuve isn’t sure why he’s al­ways had that mind­set. It could stem from years ago when many doubted that some­one who is only 5-foot-6 could make it in the ma­jors. But he won’t ad­mit that now.

“That’s the way I am,” he said when asked about his drive. “I just want to keep get­ting bet­ter … if I can get bet­ter to keep help­ing my team I am go­ing to be happy to do it.”

Al­tuve is one of the long­est-tenured play­ers on this team and among a hand­ful who were around for the re­ally bleak times when the Astroslost 100 or more games in three con­sec­u­tive sea­sons from 2011-13. He was a ma­jor rea­son the Astros re­turned to the post­sea­son af­ter a 10-year ab­sence in 2015. But he didn’t have a great per­for­mance in those­play­offs when he bat­ted just .154 with­out an ex­tra­base hit as Hous­ton was elim­i­nated by even­tual cham­pion KansasCity in the ALDS.

Things have been much dif­fer­ent this time around with Al­tuve car­ry­ing his big hit­ting in the reg­u­lar sea­son into the play­offs with eight hits in the ALDS. He starred in Hous­ton’s Game 1 win against Bos­ton when he be­came just the 10th player in ma­jor league his­tory and first since 2012 to hit three homers in a play­off game. But the All-Star sec­ond base­man in­sists that he isn’t think­ing about any of the num­bers that he’s put up so far.

“The five-what­ever I hit last se­ries is al­ready gone,” he said. “It doesn’t count for this se­ries. So if some­one asks me what is your bat­ting av­er­age right now I would say: ‘It’s zero.’ I haven’t got a hit in the next se­ries so that’s the­way I think right now.”

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