New York Post
THE LITTLE ENGINE
Diminutive Altuve powers Astros with three HRs
HOUSTON — Just call him Little Babe. Or Little Reggie.
There is a buzz saw waiting at Minute Maid Park, if the Yankees somehow find a way to make it past the incredible Indians.
That buzz saw is led by the littlest Astro, mighty Jose Altuve, who blasted three solo home runs in Houston’s 8-2 victory over the Red Sox and Chris Sale on Thursday in Game 1 of their ALDS.
Hitting three home runs has happened 10 times in postseason history, twice by Babe Ruth. Babe and Reggie Jackson, of course, did it in the World Series. All three home runs by Altuve were absolutely crushed.
Altuve is 5-foot-6, Aaron Judge is 6-7. Both stars have made the biggest of impacts on their teams, but Altuve has put up a true, complete MVP season and the fans at Minute Maid Park let him know it, chanting “M-V-P” each and time he came to the plate.
It’s a much different Judgement Day here deep in the heart of Texas.
Altuve had never hit three home runs in a game. On any level. He was amazed by his performance.
Asked what it means to be in such legendary postseason company, Altuve answered, “You said it.’’ he answered. “Like Babe Ruth and Jackson. But it is great. I couldn’t believe it. I hit one I said, ‘Wow.’
“The second one, ‘ What’s going on here?’ ’’
After the third home run, what did Altuve say?
“I got to wake up,’’ he offered with a smile.
A dream game for Altuve and the Astros.
“He’s the best hitter in the league, and that’s in a league of really, really good hitters,’’ Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “It’s incredible to watch him step up and be every bit the star that we needed today for sure. He went out and kept a really calm heartbeat and got pitches to hit and did incredible damage.’’
Even before the game, Hinch was raving about his second baseman.
“He might need to build a new trophy case for a some of these awards that are coming in,’’ Hinch said. “When one of your best players can be one of your best examples, that’s a dream come true.’’
Here is another dream come true: Justin Verlander, a postseason warhorse who is 5-0 in the Division Series, led the way on the mound with six solid innings, allowing two runs and totally outclassing Sale.
With leaders like Altuve and Verlander, the Astros are halfway to the postseason promised land.
In the bottom of the first, the Astros went right to work with back-to-back home runs by Alex Bregman, in his first postseason at-bat, and Altuve to take a 2-0 lead and getting the wild Minute Maid crowd, one of the loudest in baseball, right into the game.
Then Altuve came to the plate with the 43,102 fans chanting “M-V-P.’’
“Alex set the tone with his home run, he was really happy and really excited when he got to the dugout,’’ Altuve said. “I was like, I want to hit one, too.’’
Altuve did, delivering a 400-foot home run to left-center.
Verlander later told Altuve: “The last time I’ve seen three home runs in a [postseason] game was Pablo Sandoval and I gave up two of them, so I’m glad there’s somebody new that’s done it.’’
The Astros led the majors this season in runs (896), hits (1,581), doubles (346), batting average (.282), on-base percentage (.346), slugging percentage. (.478) and OPS (.823) while striking out fewer than any other club ((1,087).
Altuve, with his . 346 batting average and 24 home runs, was right in the middle of the action.
After the Red Sox battled back to tie the game at 2-2, Marwin Gonzalez laced a two-run, two-out double in the fourth against Sale.
Altuve followed in the fifth with his second solo home run to put the Astros on top, 5-2. Sale was knocked out of in the sixth. Altuve, to deafening chants of “M-V-P’’ led off the seventh with his third home run, a curtain call of a 402foot blast.
The Astros made a big statement, led by their 5-6 superstar, a three home-run postseason performance for the ages.