Jose Altuve isn’t your average big leaguer. He’s listed at 5-6, 165 pounds, and both measurements might be generous.
But that hasn’t stopped him from having the best year of his already-impressive career. Altuve is hitting .357 with 17 homers, 60 RBIs, 25 steals and a .423 OBP. The 26-year-old has been, in short (no pun intended), a machine.
How do you get this guy out? How do you limit him?
“I pitched against the Astros a couple years ago and lucky enough, I didn’t have to face him,” Astros closer Will Harris said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “I don’t know what the scouting report is on him, if there is one – because he hits strikes, he hits balls, he hits the ball the other way, he pulls the ball, and if he hits it just soft enough to the shortstop, he’s going to beat it out every time. So it’s a unique skill set that he possesses that you don’t see around the league really in anyone. I just feel lucky I get to see him play every day. He’s definitely an MVP-caliber player. Hopefully he can win enough games this year to where he can take that hardware home.”
The Astros (55-46) have rebounded well from their 17-28 start and trail the Rangers (58-44) by just two-and-a-half games in the AL West. They’ve since gone 38-18 and look like a dangerous team come playoff time – assuming they make it.
Last year, the Astros led the AL West for much of the season before sputtering toward the end – they went 13-17 down the stretch – and ultimately losing the division by two games. Houston still beat New York in the AL Wild Card and pushed Kansas City to five games in the ALDS, but it’s clear the Astros have learned a lot from last year.
The talent was there; now it seems the maturity is catching up to it.
“It was a new experience for almost everybody in that clubhouse to be in a playoff scenario coming down to September and trying to catch the Rangers and also at the same time trying to hold off the Angels and win our games every day,” Harris said. “This year, we went from the hunted to the hunter. The Rangers got off to a big lead, kind of like we did last year in April and May, and now we’ve clawed our way back into it. We saw last year anything can happen. The Rangers went from being down seven or eight games to almost pulling away in the division in September, so we don’t see why there’s any reason we can’t do that this year. If it does happen to work out where we maybe have to go to a Wild Card game and have that one-game play-in, we did that last year and have experience doing that. I don’t think it’s something we’d be intimidated of at all.”