Altuve hits 3 homers, Astros top Red Sox in ALDS opener
HOUSTON - Jose Altuve hit three home runs in an unprecedented show of power for the diminutive major league batting champion as the Houston Astros roughed up Chris Sale and the Boston Red Sox 8-2 Thursday in Game 1 of the AL Division Series.
Buoyed by chants of “MVP” in each trip to the plate, the 5-foot-6 Altuve hit solo homers in the first and fifth innings off Sale. He connected again in the seventh off reliever Austin Maddox to give Houston a quick boost in the best-offive series.
It was just the 10th time a player hit three homers in a postseason game, and first since Pablo Sandoval for the Giants in the 2012 World Series opener against Detroit. Babe Ruth did it twice.
After Altuve rounded the bases on his third solo homer, which landed on the train tracks atop left field, George Springer grabbed the All-Star second baseman’s right biceps and examined it as if searching for an explanation for his out of the ordinary pop.
Altuve’s teammates then goaded him into exiting the dugout for a curtain call. And as he tipped his hat to the crowd one fan near the dugout held a sign that proclaimed in blue block letters: “That Kid Can Hit.”
“As soon as I cross the white line, I feel the same size as everyone else,” Altuve said after the win.
Justin Verlander pitched six effective innings and improved to 6-0 since Houston got him in late trade with Detroit. Sale, the major league strikeout leader, was tagged for seven runs in five-plus innings of his postseason debut.
Game 2 is Friday, with Dallas Keuchel starting for the Astros against Drew Pomeranz.
Altuve hit .346 this year, his fourth straight 200-hit season. He had 24 home runs this year — this was his third career multihomer game, and the first time he’d hit three all at once.