Al­tuve hits 3 homers, Astros top Red Sox in ALDS opener

The Commercial Appeal - - Sports -

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.

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